The helper component-proteinase (HC-Pro) of Cowpea aphid-borne mosaic virus (CABMV) was expressed in Escherichia coli and used to obtain HC-Pro antiserum that was used as an analytical tool for HC-Pro studies. The antiserum was used in immunofluorescence assays to study the subcellular location of HC-Pro expressed with other viral proteins in cowpea protoplasts in a natural CABMV infection, or in protoplasts transfected with a transient expression construct expressing HC-Pro separately from other viral proteins under the control of the 35S promoter. In both cases the protein showed a diffuse cytoplasmic location. Similar localisation patterns were shown in live protoplasts when the transient expression system was used to express HC-Pro as a fusion with the green fluorescent protein as a reporter. In an alternative expression system, the HC-Pro coding region was subcloned in-frame between the movement protein and large coat protein genes of RNA2 of Cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV). Upon transfection of protoplasts with this construct, HC-Pro was expressed as part of the RNA2 encoded polyprotein from which it was fully processed. In this case, the protein localised in broad cytoplasmic patches reminiscent of the typical CPMV induced cytopathic structures in which CPMV replication occurs, suggesting an interaction of HC-Pro with CPMV proteins or host factors in these structures. Finally, recombinant CPMV expressing HC-Pro showed a strongly enhanced virulence on cowpea and Nicotiana benthamiana consistent with the role of HC-Pro as a pathogenicity determinant, a phenomenon now known to be linked to its role as a suppressor of host defense responses based on post-transcriptional gene silencing.
- Cowpea aphid-borne mosaic virus
- Cowpea protoplasts
- Helper component-proteinase