Alfalfa mosaic virus (AMV) and Prunus necrotic ringspot virus (PNRSV) are tripartite positive-strand RNA plant viruses that encode functionally similar translation products. Although the two viruses are phylogenetically closely related, they infect a very different range of natural hosts. The coat protein (CP) gene, the movement protein (MP) gene or both genes in AMV RNA 3 were replaced by the corresponding genes of PNRSV. The chimeric viruses were tested for heterologous encapsidation, replication in protoplasts from plants transformed with AMV replicase genes P1 and P2 (P12 plants) and for cell-to-cell transport in P12 plants. The chimeric viruses exhibited basic competence for encapsidation and replication in P12 protoplasts and for a low level of cell-to-cell movement in P12 plants. The potential involvement of the MP gene in determining host specificity in ilarviruses is discussed.


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