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Cocksfoot mottle virus coat protein is dispensable for the systemic infection

Allan Olspert12, Kristjan Kamsol1, Cecilia Sarmiento1, Jelena Gerassimenko1 and Erkki Truve1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gene Technology, Tallinn University of Technology, Akadeemia tee 15, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia

2 Current address: Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-19

Published: 4 February 2014



The Sobemovirus genome consists of polycistronic single-stranded positive-sense RNA. The first ORF encodes P1, a suppressor of RNA silencing required for virus movement. The coat protein (CP) is expressed from the 3′ proximal ORF3 via subgenomic RNA. In addition to its structural role, the CP of some sobemoviruses has been reported to be required for systemic movement and to interact with P1. The aim of this study was to analyse the role of Cocksfoot mottle virus (CfMV) CP in the suppression of RNA silencing and virus movement.


Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression method was used for testing CfMV CP capacity to suppress RNA silencing. CP substitution and deletion mutants were generated to examine the role of this protein in CfMV infection, using three host plants (oat, barley and wheat). The viral movement was characterised with CfMV expressing EGFP fused to the C-terminus of CP.


In the current study we show that CfMV CP is an additional RNA silencing suppressor. Interestingly, we observed that all CP mutant viruses were able to infect the three tested host plants systemically, although usually with reduced accumulation. CfMV expressing EGFP was detected in epidermal and mesophyll cells of inoculated leaves. Although EGFP fluorescence was not detected in upper leaves, some plants displayed CfMV symptoms. Analysis of the upper leaves revealed that the viruses had lost the EGFP sequence and sometimes also most of the CP gene.


The present study demonstrates that CfMV CP suppresses RNA silencing but, surprisingly, is dispensable for systemic movement. Thus, CfMV does not move as virion in the tested host plants. The composition of the movement RNP complex remains to be elucidated.

Sobemovirus; Virus movement; RNA silencing suppressor; Coat protein