On the surface of cowpea protoplasts inoculated with cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV), tubular structures containing virus particles have been found. Such tubular structures are thought to be involved in cell-to-cell movement of CPMV in cowpea plants. To study the involvement of the 58K/48K and capsid proteins of CPMV in the formation of the tubular structures, mutations were introduced into M cDNA clones from which infectious transcripts could be derived. No tubules were found on protoplasts inoculated with a mutant that fails to produce the 48K protein nor with a mutant that has a deletion in the 48K coding region, suggesting that the 48K protein is essential for this process. However, a possible role of the 58K protein in tubule formation could not be excluded. A mutant that fails to produce the capsid proteins did produce tubules and therefore the capsid proteins are not involved in the formation of the tubular structures. Electron microscopic analysis revealed that the tubules produced by this mutant are, apart from the absence of virus particles, morphologically identical to the tubules formed by the wild-type virus.


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