Misregulation of AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR 8 underlies the developmental abnormalities caused by three distinct viral silencing suppressors in Arabidopsis

PLoS Pathog. 2011 May;7(5):e1002035. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002035. Epub 2011 May 12.


In Arabidopsis, micro (mi)RNAs and trans-acting (ta-si)RNAs synthesized directly or indirectly through the DICER-LIKE-1 (DCL1) ribonuclease have roles in patterning and hormonal responses, while DCL2,3,4-dependent small-interfering (si)RNAs are mainly involved in silencing of transposable elements and antiviral defense. Viral suppressors of RNA silencing (VSRs) produced by phytoviruses to counter plant defense may perturb plant developmental programs because of the collision of their inhibitory effects with the regulatory action of endogenous miRNAs and ta-siRNAs. This could explain the similar developmental aberrations displayed by Arabidopsis miRNA/ta-siRNA pathway mutants, including dcl1, and by some VSR-expressing plants. Nonetheless, the molecular bases for these morphological aberrations have remained mysterious, and their contribution to viral disease symptoms/virulence unexplored. The extent of VSR inhibitory actions to other types of endogenous small RNAs remains also unclear. Here, we present an in-depth analysis of transgenic Arabidopsis expressing constitutively HcPro, P19 and P15, three unrelated VSRs. We show that VSR expression has comparable, yet modest effects on known miRNA and ta-siRNA target RNA levels, similar to those observed using an hypomorphic dcl1 mutation. However, by combining results of transcriptome studies with deep-sequencing data from immuno-precipitated small RNAs, additional, novel endogenous targets of miRNA and ta-siRNA were identified, unraveling an unsuspected complexity in the origin and scope-of-action of these molecules. Other stringent analyses pinpointed misregulation of the miR167 target AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR 8 (ARF8) as a major cause for the developmental aberrations exhibited by VSR transgenic plants, but also for the phenotypes induced during normal viral infection caused by the HcPro-encoding Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV). Neither RNA silencing, its suppression by VSRs, nor the virulence/accumulation of TuMV was altered by mutations in ARF8. These findings have important implications for our understanding of viral disease symptoms and small RNA-directed regulation of plant growth/development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis / virology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Indoleacetic Acids / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Immunity
  • Plant Leaves
  • Plant Roots
  • Plant Stems
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / growth & development
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / virology
  • Potyvirus / genetics*
  • Potyvirus / pathogenicity
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III / metabolism
  • Transcriptome
  • Transgenes


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • HEN1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • auxin response factor 8, Arabidopsis
  • DCL1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Ribonuclease III

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE24692
  • GEO/GSE24693
  • GEO/GSE26739