The relative susceptibilities and symptom responses of different species to infection by cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) have been compared and related to molecular events of the virus multiplication cycle. Variants of (genome descriptor aa) were highly susceptible to infection by CaMV strain Cabb B-JI and contained relatively large amounts of virus; (cc) variants showed low susceptibility and contained small amounts of virus. (bb) and allotetraploid species, (aabb), (aacc) and (bbcc), showed moderate responses to CaMV. CaMV unencapsidated DNA forms were isolated from different plants and examined by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and blot hybridization. Viral RNA was estimated by dot blot analysis. These analyses showed differences in accumulation of key viral replication cycle intermediates within the broad range of host plants studied. The most susceptible species contained relatively small amounts of supercoiled (SC) DNA, a component of the CaMV minichromosome, but abundant viral transcripts and reverse transcription replication products. Tolerant plant hosts contained high levels of SC DNA but low levels of viral transcripts and reverse transcription DNA products. Allotetraploids contained SC DNA, RNA transcripts and replication product levels which were generally intermediate between those of their respective progenitor species. Evidence is presented that accumulation of CaMV SC DNA in the less susceptible host species is probably not due to autonomous DNA replication or tissue-specific expression. We conclude that a major component of the susceptibility of plants (and probably all CaMV host species) to CaMV infection is the level of viral minichromosome expression, influenced directly by the host genotype.


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