Transgenic tobacco plants expressing the wild-type (wt) coat protein (CP) gene of alfalfa mosaic virus (AIMV) have been shown to be resistant to infection with viral particles and RNAs or to infect[on with viral particles only. The difference in resistance of these plants to RNA inocula was found to correlate with a difference in the expression level of the transgene. Plants expressing a mutant AIMV CP with the N-terminal serine residue changed to glycine have been shown to be susceptible to infection with wt viral particles or RNAs. By site-directed mutagenesis of AIMV cDNA a viable mutant virus encoding CP with the same N-terminal mutation was obtained. Plants expressing wt or mutant CP were resistant to the mutant virus, demonstrating that a single amino acid substitution in CP did not permit the virus to overcome CP-mediated resistance. Although the mutant CP did not confer resistance to wt virus when expressed in transgenic plants, it was still effective in classical cross-protection: plants infected with the mutant virus were resistant to a severe strain of AIMV. A model to explain the data is discussed.
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