The family Potyviridae encompasses ~30% of plant viruses and is responsible for significant economic losses worldwide. Recently, a small overlapping coding sequence, termed pipo, was found to be conserved in the genomes of all potyvirids. PIPO is expressed as part of a frameshift protein, P3N-PIPO, which is essential for virus cell-to-cell movement. However, the frameshift expression mechanism has hitherto remained unknown. Here, we demonstrate that transcriptional slippage, specific to the viral RNA polymerase, results in a population of transcripts with an additional "A" inserted within a highly conserved GAAAAAA sequence, thus enabling expression of P3N-PIPO. The slippage efficiency is ~2% in Turnip mosaic virus and slippage is inhibited by mutations in the GAAAAAA sequence. While utilization of transcriptional slippage is well known in negative-sense RNA viruses such as Ebola, mumps and measles, to our knowledge this is the first report of its widespread utilization for gene expression in positive-sense RNA viruses.
Keywords: P3N‐PIPO; Potyvirus; RNA virus; gene expression; transcriptional slippage.
© 2015 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.