Plant Pathology Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Virology 88(2) January 2014 p. 1366–1380


Viral coat proteins function in virion assembly and virus biology in a tightly coordinated manner with a role for virtually every amino acid. In this study, we demonstrated that the coat protein (CP) of Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV; genus Tritimovirus, family Potyviridae) is unusually tolerant of extensive deletions, with continued virion assembly and/or systemic infection found after extensive deletions are made. A series of deletion and point mutations was created in the CP cistron of wild-type and/or green fluorescent protein-tagged WSMV, and the effects of these mutations on cell-to-cell and systemic transport and virion assembly of WSMV were examined. Mutants with overlapping deletions comprising N-terminal amino acids 6 to 27, 36 to 84, 85 to 100, 48 to 100, and 36 to 100 or the C-terminal 14 or 17 amino acids systemically infected wheat with different efficiencies. However, mutation of conserved amino acids in the core domain, which may be involved in a salt bridge, abolished virion assembly and cell-to-cell movement. N-terminal amino acids 6 to 27 and 85 to 100 are required for efficient virion assembly and cell-to-cell movement, while the C-terminal 65 amino acids are dispensable for virion assembly but are required for cell-to-cell movement, suggesting that the C terminus of CP functions as a dedicated cell-to-cell movement determinant. In contrast, amino acids 36 to 84 are expendable, with their deletion causing no obvious effects on systemic infection or virion assembly. In total, 152 amino acids (amino acids 6 to 27 and 36 to 100 and the 65 amino acids at the C-terminal end) of 349 amino acids of CP are dispensable for systemic infection and/or virion assembly, which is rare for multifunctional viral CPs.