A single amino acid position in the helper component of cauliflower mosaic virus can change the spectrum of transmitting vector species.

UMR Biologie et Génétique des Interactions Plantes-Parasites, CIRAD-INRA-ENSAM, TA 41/K, Campus International de Baillarguet, 34398 Montpellier cedex 05, France.
Journal of Virology (Impact Factor: 4.65). 12/2005; 79(21):13587-93. DOI: 10.1128/JVI.79.21.13587-13593.2005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Viruses frequently use insect vectors to effect rapid spread through host populations. In plant viruses, vector transmission is the major mode of transmission, used by nearly 80% of species described to date. Despite the importance of this phenomenon in epidemiology, the specificity of the virus-vector relationship is poorly understood at both the molecular and the evolutionary level, and very limited data are available on the precise viral protein motifs that control specificity. Here, using the aphid-transmitted Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) as a biological model, we confirm that the "noncirculative" mode of transmission dominant in plant viruses (designated "mechanical vector transmission" in animal viruses) involves extremely specific virus-vector recognition, and we identify an amino acid position in the "helper component" (HC) protein of CaMV involved in such recognition. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed that changing the residue at this position can differentially affect transmission rates obtained with various aphid species, thus modifying the spectrum of vector species for CaMV. Most interestingly, in a virus line transmitted by a single vector species, we observed the rapid appearance of a spontaneous mutant specifically losing its transmissibility by another aphid species. Hence, in addition to the first identification of an HC motif directly involved in specific vector recognition, we demonstrate that change of a virus to a different vector species requires only a single mutation and can occur rapidly and spontaneously.

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