Reverse genetics systems represent an important tool for studying the molecular and functional processes of viral infection. Citrus leprosis virus C (CiLV-C) (genus cilevirus, family Kitaviridae) is the main pathogen responsible for the citrus leprosis (CL) disease in Latin America, one of the most economically important diseases of the citrus industry. Molecular studies of this pathosystem are limited due to the lack of infectious clones. Here, we report the construction and validation of a CiLV-C infectious cDNA clone based on an agroinfection system. The two viral RNA segments (RNA1 and RNA2) were assembled into two binary vectors (pJL89 and pLXAS). Agroinfiltrated Nicotiana benthamiana plants showed a response similar to that observed in the natural infection process with the formation of localized lesions restricted to the inoculated leaves. The virus recovered from the plant tissue infected with the infectious clones can be mechanically transmitted between N. benthamiana plants. Detection of CiLV-C subgenomic RNAs (sgRNAs) from agroinfiltrated and mechanically inoculated leaves further confirmed the infectivity of the clones. Finally, partial particle-purification preparations or sections of CiLV-C-infected tissue followed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis showed the formation of CiLV-C virions rescued by the infectious clone. The CiLV-C reverse genetic system now provides a powerful molecular tool to unravel the peculiarities of the CL pathosystem.
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