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Both posttranscriptional and transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS and TGS, respectively) participate in defense against the DNA-containing geminiviruses. As a countermeasure, members of the genus Begomovirus (e.g., Cabbage leaf curl virus) encode an AL2 protein that is both a transcriptional activator and a silencing suppressor. The related L2 protein of Beet curly top virus (genus Curtovirus) lacks transcription activation activity. Previous studies showed that both AL2 and L2 suppress silencing by a mechanism that correlates with adenosine kinase (ADK) inhibition, while AL2 in addition activates transcription of cellular genes that negatively regulate silencing pathways. The goal of this study was to clarify the general means by which these viral proteins inhibit various aspects of silencing. We confirmed that AL2 inhibits systemic silencing spread by a mechanism that requires transcription activation activity. Surprisingly, we also found that reversal of PTGS and TGS by ADK inactivation depended on whether experiments were conducted in vegetative or reproductive Nicotiana benthamiana plants (i.e., before or after the vegetative-to-reproductive transition). While AL2 was able to reverse silencing in both vegetative and reproductive plants, L2 and ADK inhibition were effective only in vegetative plants. This suggests that silencing maintenance mechanisms can change during development or in response to stress. Remarkably, we also observed that AL2 lacking its transcription activation domain could reverse TGS in reproductive plants, revealing a third, previously unsuspected AL2 suppression mechanism that depends on neither ADK inactivation nor transcription activation.
RNA silencing in plants is a multivalent antiviral defense, and viruses respond by elaborating multiple and sometimes multifunctional proteins that inhibit various aspects of silencing. The studies described here add an additional layer of complexity to this interplay. By examining geminivirus AL2 and L2 suppressor activities, we show that L2 is unable to suppress silencing in Nicotiana benthamiana plants that have undergone the vegetative-to-reproductive transition. As L2 was previously shown to be effective in mature Arabidopsis plants, these results illustrate that silencing mechanisms can change during development or in response to stress in ways that may be species specific. The AL2 and L2 proteins are known to share a suppression mechanism that correlates with the ability of both proteins to inhibit ADK, while AL2 in addition can inhibit silencing by transcriptionally activating cellular genes. Here, we also provide evidence for a third AL2 suppression mechanism that depends on neither transcription activation nor ADK inactivation. In addition to revealing the remarkable versatility of AL2, this work highlights the utility of viral suppressors as probes for the analysis of silencing pathways.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Journal of Virology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SNF1-related kinase (SnRK1) in plants belongs to a conserved family that includes sucrose non-fermenting 1 kinase (SNF1) in yeast and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in animals. These kinases play important roles in the regulation of cellular energy homeostasis and in response to stresses that deplete ATP, they inhibit energy consuming anabolic pathways and promote catabolism. Energy stress is sensed by increased AMP:ATP ratios and in plants, 5'-AMP inhibits inactivation of phosphorylated SnRK1 by phosphatase. In previous studies, we showed that geminivirus pathogenicity proteins interact with both SnRK1 and adenosine kinase (ADK), which phosphorylates adenosine to generate 5'-AMP. This suggested a relationship between SnRK1 and ADK, which we investigate in the studies described here. We demonstrate that SnRK1 and ADK physically associate in the cytoplasm, and that SnRK1 stimulates ADK in vitro by an unknown, non-enzymatic mechanism. Further, altering SnRK1 or ADK activity in transgenic plants altered the activity of the other kinase, providing evidence for in vivo linkage but also revealing that in vivo regulation of these activities is complex. This study establishes the existence of SnRK1-ADK complexes that may play important roles in energy homeostasis and cellular responses to biotic and abiotic stress.
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Arabidopsis encodes five double-stranded RNA binding (DRB) proteins. DRB1 and DRB2 are involved in microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, while DRB4 functions in cytoplasmic posttranscriptional small interfering RNA (siRNA) pathways. DRB3 and DRB5 are not involved in double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) processing but assist in silencing transcripts targeted by DRB2-associated miRNAs. The goal of this study was to determine which, if any, of the DRB proteins might also participate in a nuclear siRNA pathway that leads to geminivirus genome methylation. Here, we demonstrate that DRB3 functions with Dicer-like 3 (DCL3) and Argonaute 4 (AGO4) in methylation-mediated antiviral defense. Plants employ repressive viral genome methylation as an epigenetic defense against geminiviruses, using an RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway similar to that used to suppress endogenous invasive DNAs such as transposons. Chromatin methylation inhibits virus replication and transcription, and methylation-deficient host plants are hypersusceptible to geminivirus infection. Using a panel of drb mutants, we found that drb3 plants uniquely exhibit a similar hypersensitivity and that viral genome methylation is substantially reduced in drb3 compared to wild-type plants. In addition, like dcl3 and ago4 mutants, drb3 plants fail to recover from infection and cannot accomplish the viral genome hypermethylation that is invariably observed in asymptomatic, recovered tissues. Small RNA analysis, bimolecular fluorescence complementation, and coimmunoprecipitation experiments show that DRB3 acts downstream of siRNA biogenesis and suggest that it associates with DCL3 and AGO4 in distinct subnuclear compartments. These studies reveal that in addition to its previously established role in the miRNA pathway, DRB3 also functions in antiviral RdDM.
Plants use RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) as an epigenetic defense against geminiviruses. RNA silencing pathways in Arabidopsis include five double-stranded RNA binding proteins (DRBs) related to Drosophila R2D2 and mammalian TRBP and PACT. While DRB proteins have defined roles in miRNA and cytoplasmic siRNA pathways, a role in nuclear RdDM was elusive. Here, we used the geminivirus system to show that DRB3 is involved in methylation-mediated antiviral defense. Beginning with a panel of Arabidopsis drb mutants, we demonstrated that drb3 plants uniquely show enhanced susceptibility to geminiviruses. Further, like dcl3 and ago4 mutants, drb3 plants fail to hypermethylate the viral genome, a requirement for host recovery. We also show that DRB3 physically interacts with the RdDM pathway components DCL3 and AGO4 in the nucleus. This work highlights the utility of geminiviruses as models for de novo RdDM and places DRB3 protein in this fundamental epigenetic pathway.
Preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Journal of Virology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ebola virus (EBOV) causes a lethal hemorrhagic fever for which there is no approved effective treatment or prevention strategy. EBOV VP35 is a virulence factor that blocks innate antiviral host responses, including the induction of and response to alpha/beta interferon. VP35 is also an RNA silencing suppressor (RSS). By inhibiting microRNA-directed silencing, mammalian virus RSSs have the capacity to alter the cellular environment to benefit replication. A reporter gene containing specific microRNA target sequences was used to demonstrate that prior expression of wild-type VP35 was able to block establishment of microRNA silencing in mammalian cells. In addition, wild-type VP35 C-terminal domain (CTD) protein fusions were shown to bind small interfering RNA (siRNA). Analysis of mutant proteins demonstrated that reporter activity in RSS assays did not correlate with their ability to antagonize double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated protein kinase R (PKR) or bind siRNA. The results suggest that enhanced reporter activity in the presence of VP35 is a composite of nonspecific translational enhancement and silencing suppression. Moreover, most of the specific RSS activity in mammalian cells is RNA binding independent, consistent with VP35's proposed role in sequestering one or more silencing complex proteins. To examine RSS activity in a system without interferon, VP35 was tested in well-characterized plant silencing suppression assays. VP35 was shown to possess potent plant RSS activity, and the activities of mutant proteins correlated strongly, but not exclusively, with RNA binding ability. The results suggest the importance of VP35-protein interactions in blocking silencing in a system (mammalian) that cannot amplify dsRNA.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Journal of Virology