Transgenic potato plants were generated which express a dicistronic mRNA corresponding to the 8 kDa protein and coat protein (CP) genes of potato virus X (PVX). Northern blot analysis of RNA isolated from these plants indicated that both the 8 kDa protein and the CP are translated from this dicistronic mRNA. Expression of both of these proteins in transgenic plants was demonstrated by Western blot analysis, and suggests that translation of CP takes place either by initiation by internal entry of ribosomes or by a termination/reinitiation mechanism. CP was detected in protoplasts electroporated with RNA transcripts of the dicistronic construct in the presence or absence of a stable hairpin structure at the 5' terminus, suggesting that the former model is more likely. Similar results were obtained when a DNA fragment containing the PVX CP leader sequence was placed between two reporter genes in the transient assay system. These results suggest that potexvirus CP expression may take place from the genomic RNA as well as from the subgenomic RNA.


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