A tobacco etch virus (TEV)-based expression vector has been used for insertion of several ORFs derived from the unrelated beet yellows virus (BYV). Hybrid TEV variants expressing the BYV capsid protein, 20-kDa protein, or HSP70 homolog systemically infected Nicotiana tabacum and stably retained BYV sequences. In contrast, insertion of the ORF encoding BYV leader proteinase (L-Pro) resulted in severely impaired systemic transport and accumulation of recombinant TEV. Progeny of this virus underwent various deletions affecting the L-Pro sequence and mitigating the defects in virus spread. Model experiments involving several spontaneous and engineered mutants indicated that the central domain of BYV L-Pro was responsible for the defect in hybrid virus accumulation, whereas full-size L-Pro was required for maximal debilitation of systemic transport. Strikingly, BYV L-Pro expression did not debilitate systemic infection of hybrid TEV in Nicotiana benthamiana plants. No major defects in replication or encapsidation of recombinant RNA were revealed in N. tabacum protoplasts. These results indicated that BYV L-Pro specifically interfered with TEV systemic transport and accumulation in a host-dependent manner and suggested a potential utility of closterovirus L-Pro as an inhibitor of potyvirus infection. In addition, it was demonstrated that the 107-amino-acid-residues-long N-terminal part of the TEV helper component proteinase is not essential for systemic infection.