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Altered Gene Expression Changes in Arabidopsis Leaf Tissues and Protoplasts in Response to Plum Pox Virus Infection

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Background: Virus infection induces the activation and suppression of global gene expression in the host. Profiling gene expression changes in the host may provide insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie host physiological and phenotypic responses to virus infection. In this study, the Arabidopsis Affymetrix ATH1 array was used to assess global gene expression changes in Arabidopsis thaliana plants infected with Plum pox virus (PPV). To identify early genes in response to PPV infection, an Arabidopsis synchronized single-cell transformation system was developed. Arabidopsis protoplasts were transfected with a PPV infectious clone and global gene expression changes in the transfected protoplasts were profiled.

Results: Microarray analysis of PPV-infected Arabidopsis leaf tissues identified 2013 and 1457 genes that were significantly (Q ≤ 0.05) up- (≥ 2.5 fold) and downregulated (≤ -2.5 fold), respectively. Genes associated with soluble sugar, starch and amino acid, intracellular membrane/membrane-bound organelles, chloroplast, and protein fate were upregulated, while genes related to development/storage proteins, protein synthesis and translation, and cell wall-associated components were downregulated. These gene expression changes were associated with PPV infection and symptom development. Further transcriptional profiling of protoplasts transfected with a PPV infectious clone revealed the upregulation of defence and cellular signalling genes as early as 6 hours post transfection. A cross sequence comparison analysis of genes differentially regulated by PPV-infected Arabidopsis leaves against uniEST sequences derived from PPV-infected leaves of Prunus persica, a natural host of PPV, identified orthologs related to defence, metabolism and protein synthesis. The cross comparison of genes differentially regulated by PPV infection and by the infections of other positive sense RNA viruses revealed a common set of 416 genes. These identified genes, particularly the early responsive genes, may be critical in virus infection.

Conclusion: Gene expression changes in PPV-infected Arabidopsis are the molecular basis of stress and defencelike responses, PPV pathogenesis and symptom development. The differentially regulated genes, particularly the early responsive genes, and a common set of genes regulated by infections of PPV and other positive sense RNA viruses identified in this study are candidates suitable for further functional characterization to shed lights on molecular virus-host interactions.


Published in: BMC Genomics 2008, 9:325 (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-325). The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

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