Pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV) is composed of two autonomously replicating virus RNAs related to the genomic RNAs of viruses in the genera Luteovirus and Umbravirus. The transmission of PEMV resembles that of its luteovirus relatives in utilizing circulative aphid transmission. However, unlike its luteovirus counterparts, PEMV can also be mechanically transmitted. Prolonged mechanical passage of PEMV can lead to the loss of aphid transmissibility, a trait that is mirrored by specific changes in the PEMV virion composition. These changes were used to examine the virus contribution to vector transmission and the mechanisms by which it is regulated. Using a local lesion isolation technique, one aphid transmissible and two aphid non-transmissible isolates of PEMV were compared. Structural analysis of a 54 kDa minor structural subunit unique to the aphid transmissible isolate demonstrated that it was a fusion of the 21 kDa virus coat protein and a 33 kDa protein encoded immediately downstream of the 21 kDa ORF, consistent with the formation of the 54 kDa subunit by translational readthrough. Genetic analyses utilizing exchanges between infectious in vitro transcripts of each isolate demonstrated that although the 33 kDa protein was non-essential for infection, its presence was mandatory for aphid transmission, and that specific changes within the 33 kDa ORF were sufficient to confer or abolish aphid transmission. This study also demonstrates that isolates of PEMV exist as mixtures of aphid transmissible and non-transmissible genotypes, and provides insight into the mechanisms used by this virus to down-regulate aphid transmission in response to a specific selection pressure.


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