The plant viral family Luteoviridae
is divided into three genera: Luteovirus
. Without assistance from another virus, members of the family are confined to the cells of the host plant’s vascular system. The first open reading frame (ORF) of poleroviruses and enamoviruses encodes P0 proteins which act as silencing suppressor proteins (VSRs) against the plant’s viral defense-mediating RNA silencing machinery. Luteoviruses, such as barley yellow dwarf virus-PAV (BYDV-PAV), however, have no P0 to carry out the VSR role, so we investigated whether other proteins or RNAs encoded by BYDV-PAV confer protection against the plant’s silencing machinery. Deep-sequencing of small RNAs from plants infected with BYDV-PAV revealed that the virus is subjected to RNA silencing in the phloem tissues and there was no evidence of protection afforded by a possible decoy effect of the highly abundant subgenomic RNA3. However, analysis of VSR activity among the BYDV-PAV ORFs revealed systemic silencing suppression by the P4 movement protein, and a similar, but weaker, activity by P6. The closely related BYDV-PAS P4, but not the polerovirus potato leafroll virus P4, also displayed systemic VSR activity. Both luteovirus and the polerovirus P4 proteins also showed transient, weak local silencing suppression. This suggests that systemic silencing suppression is the principal mechanism by which the luteoviruses BYDV-PAV and BYDV-PAS minimize the effects of the plant’s anti-viral defense.
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