Transgenic tobacco plants expressing an altered form of the 2a replicase gene from the Fny strain of (CMV) exhibit suppressed virus replication and restricted virus movement when inoculated mechanically or by aphid vectors. Additional transformants have been generated which contain replicase gene constructs designed to determine the role(s) of transgene mRNA and/or protein in resistance. Resistance to systemic disease caused by CMV, as well as delayed infection, was observed in several lines of transgenic plants which were capable of expressing either full-length or truncated replicase proteins. In contrast, among plants which contained nontranslatable transgene constructs, only one of 61 lines examined exhibited delays or resistance. Once infected, plants never recovered, regardless of transgene translatability. Transgenic plants exhibiting a range of resistance levels were examined for transgene copy number, mRNA and protein levels. Although ribonuclease protection assays demonstrated that transgene mRNA levels were very low, resistant lines had consistently more steady-state transgene mRNA than susceptible lines. Furthermore, chlorotic or necrotic local lesions developed on the inoculated leaves of transgenic lines containing translatable transgenes, but not on inoculated leaves of lines containing nontranslatable transgenes. These results demonstrate that translatability of the transgene and possibly expression of the transgene protein itself facilitates replicase-mediated resistance to CMV in tobacco.


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