Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagging was used to determine the intracellular localization pattern of the proteins encoded by banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) DNA-3, -4 and -6. The protein encoded by BBTV DNA-4, which possesses a hydrophobic N terminus, was found to localize exclusively to the cell periphery while the proteins encoded by BBTV DNA-3 and -6 were found in both the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Co-expression of the DNA-4 protein and the proteins encoded by BBTV DNA-3 and -6 revealed that the DNA-4 protein was able to re-locate the DNA-6 protein, but not the DNA-3 protein, to the cell periphery. The 29 amino acid N-terminal hydrophobic region of the DNA-4 gene product appeared to be essential for specific localization of this protein since deletion of this region abolished its ability to localize to the cell periphery. These results indicate that BBTV may utilize a system analogous to that of the begomoviruses with the BBTV DNA-6 protein acting as a nuclear shuttle protein (NSP) while the DNA-4 protein transports the NSP–DNA complexes to the cell periphery for intercellular transport. The protein encoded by BBTV DNA-5 was found to contain an LXCXE motif and yeast two-hybrid analysis revealed that the DNA-5 protein has retinoblastoma (Rb)-binding activity. This activity was dependent on an intact LXCXE motif since specific mutations to either the C or E residue completely abolished Rb-binding activity. These results indicate that the gene product of BBTV DNA-5 is an Rb-binding-like protein and may play an important role in host-cell cycle manipulation.


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