Functions of the Tobacco mosaic virus helicase domain: regulating formation of the virus replication complex and altering the activity of a host-encoded transcription factor
Culver, James N
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Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)-encoded 126-kDa and 183-kDa replicases are multidomain and multifunctional proteins. The helicase domain shared by both replicases has been shown to perform multiple tasks during the virus life cycle. In vitro structural and functional analyses demonstrated that monomers and dimers of the TMV helicase domain were the active forms for ATP hydrolysis. However, self-interaction of the helicase polypeptides resulted in the formation of higher-order structures that likely serve as structural scaffolds for the assembly of virus replication complexes (VRCs). Mutagenesis studies of the TMV helicase motifs showed that conserved amino acid residues played important roles in protein ATPase and/or RNA binding activities. A close correlation between ATPase activity of the helicase domain and assembly of wild-type VRC-like vesicles by the 126-kDa replicase further suggests that ATPase activity of the TMV helicase domain may modulate proper VRC assembly. In addition to helicase self-interaction, a novel virus-host interaction involving ATAF2, a NAC domain transcription factor was identified. Members within the NAC domain family are involved in plant developmental processes and stress/defense responses. In this study, transgenic plants overexpressing ATAF2 showed a strong developmental phenotype. Inoculation of TMV in these transgenic plants resulted in reduced virus accumulations. Additionally, transcriptional induction of ATAF2 occurred in response to TMV infection and salicylic acid treatment. Combined, these results suggest that ATAF2 is involved in a host defense response. One interesting finding was that in susceptible hosts, virus-directed induction of ATAF2 and PR1, a well-defined pathogenesis-related (PR) marker gene for host defense system, occurred only in locally-infected but not in systemically-infected tissues. Dynamic changes in the expression of host defense genes suggest that viruses have evolved certain mechanisms to actively modulate host gene expression. Interaction between the TMV helicase domain and ATAF2 may provide one way to suppress the ATAF2-mediated host defense signaling pathway. Combined these studies investigated the importance of the TMV helicase domain in VRC formation and in manipulating the host defense system. The results confirmed the functional versatility of the TMV helicase domain in establishing a successful virus life cycle.