The AL2 gene of the geminivirus tomato golden mosaic virus (TGMV) encodes a transcriptional activator protein (TrAP) that is required for efficient expression of the viral coat protein (CP) and BR1 gene promoters. In contrast, L2, the positional homolog of AL2 in the related beet curly top virus (BCTV), is not required for CP expression, raising questions about the functional relationship between the AL2 and L2 gene products. In this study, transgenic Nicotiana benthamiana and N. tabacum var. Samsun plants expressing a truncated AL2 gene (AL2(1-100), lacking the activation domain) or full-length L2 were prepared. These transgenic plants showed a novel enhanced susceptibility (ES) phenotype following inoculation with TGMV, BCTV, or tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), an unrelated RNA virus. ES is characterized by a reduction in the mean latent period (from 1 to 9 days) and by a decrease in the inoculum concentration required to infect transgenic plants (ID50 reduced 6- to 60-fold). However, ES does not result in an enhancement of disease symptoms, and viral nucleic acids do not accumulate to substantially greater levels in infected transgenic plants. That both viral transgenes condition ES suggests that their products share the ability to suppress a host stress or defense response that acts against DNA and RNA viruses. The data further indicate that the transcriptional activation activity of AL2 protein is not required for suppression. The nature of the response targeted by the AL2 and L2 gene products is discussed.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.