(+)strand RNA viruses have to overcome various points of restriction in the host to establish successful infection. In plants, this includes RNA silencing. To uncover additional bottlenecks to RNA virus infection, we genetically attenuated the impact of RNA silencing on transgenically expressed Potato virus X (PVX), a (+)strand RNA virus that replicates in Arabidopsis. A genetic screen in this sensitized background uncovered how nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), a host RNA quality control mechanism, recognizes and eliminates PVX RNAs with internal termination codons and long 3' UTRs. NMD also operates in natural infection contexts, and while some viruses have evolved genome expression strategies to overcome this process altogether, the virulence of NMD-activating viruses entails their ability to directly suppress NMD or to promote an NMD-unfavorable cellular state. These principles of induction, evasion, and suppression define NMD as a general viral restriction mechanism in plants that also likely operates in animals.
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