Visual tracking of plant virus infection and movement using a reporter MYB transcription factor that activates anthocyanin biosynthesis.

Research paper by Leonor C LC Bedoya, Fernando F Martínez, Diego D Orzáez, José-Antonio JA Daròs

Indexed on: 13 Jan '12Published on: 13 Jan '12Published in: Plant physiology


Insertion of reporter genes into plant virus genomes is a common experimental strategy to research many aspects of the viral infection dynamics. Their numerous advantages make fluorescent proteins the markers of choice in most studies. However, the use of fluorescent proteins still has some limitations, such as the need of specialized material and facilities to detect the fluorescence. Here, we demonstrate a visual reporter marker system to track virus infection and movement through the plant. The reporter system is based on expression of Antirrhinum majus MYB-related Rosea1 (Ros1) transcription factor (220 amino acids; 25.7 kD) that activates a series of biosynthetic genes leading to accumulation of colored anthocyanins. Using two different tobacco etch potyvirus recombinant clones tagged with Ros1, we show that infected tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) tissues turn bright red, demonstrating that in this context, the sole expression of Ros1 is sufficient to induce pigment accumulation to a level readily detectable to the naked eye. This marker system also reports viral load qualitatively and quantitatively by means of a very simple extraction process. The Ros1 marker remained stable within the potyvirus genome through successive infectious passages from plant to plant. The main limitation of this marker system is that color output will depend on each particular plant host-virus combination and must be previously tested. However, our experiments demonstrate accurate tracking of turnip mosaic potyvirus infecting Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and either tobacco mosaic virus or potato X virus infecting Nicotiana benthamiana, stressing the general applicability of the method.