The genome of pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV) consists of two plus-sense RNAs, both of which are required for mechanical transmission. RNA 1 (5706 nucleotides) has strong sequence similarity with members of the luteovirus group, a similarity with members of the luteovirus group, a similarity that is also manifested in the symptomatology, cytopathology and vector transmission of this virus. RNA 2 (4253 nucleotides) is hypothesized to facilitate systemic invasion and mechanical transmission, attributes that distinguish PEMV from the phloem-limited luteoviruses. Sequence analysis of RNA 2 has demonstrated that PEMV is unique among multicomponent viruses in that it lacks 3′- and 5′-terminal homology between its genomic RNAs. Sequence analysis of RNA 2 has identified an open reading frame encoding a putative product of 65K that contains a series of polymerase-like motifs typical of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. This protein sequence lacks homology with the polymerase encoded on RNA 1 of PEMV, instead being more closely affiliated with the polymerases of viruses related to the carmo- and tombusvirus groups. Inoculation of pea protoplasts with RNA transcripts derived from a full-length cDNA clone of RNA 2 has demonstrated that RNA 2 replicates autonomously in the absence of RNA 1, although comparable inoculation of whole plants failed to establish a systemic infection. There is no evidence that RNA 2 encodes structural proteins, suggesting that encapsidation functions are supplied in trans by RNA 1, comparable to the helper-dependent complexes occurring within the luteovirus group. These data suggest that the PEMV genome can be characterized as a symbiotic association of two taxonomically distinct viral RNAs cooperatively interacting in the establishment of a systemic virus infection.


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