Many plant viruses encode proteins that suppress RNA silencing, but little is known about the activity of silencing suppressors in roots. This study examined differences in the silencing suppression activity of different viruses in leaves and roots of Nicotiana benthamiana plants. Infection by tobacco mosaic virus, potato virus Y and cucumber mosaic virus but not potato virus X (PVX) resulted in strong silencing suppression activity of a transgene in both leaves and roots, whereas infection by beet necrotic yellow vein virus (BNYVV) and tobacco rattle virus (TRV) showed transgene silencing suppression in roots but not in leaves. For most viruses tested, viral negative-strand RNA accumulated at a very low level in roots, compared with considerable levels of positive-strand genomic RNA. Co-inoculation of leaves with PVX and either BNYVV or TRV produced an increase in PVX negative-strand RNA and subgenomic RNA (sgRNA) accumulation in roots. The cysteine-rich proteins (CRPs) BNYVV p14 and TRV 16K showed weak silencing suppression activity in leaves. However, when either of these CRPs was expressed from a PVX vector, there was an enhancement of PVX negative-strand RNA and sgRNA accumulation in roots compared with PVX alone. Such enhancement of PVX sgRNAs was also observed by expression of CRPs of other viruses and the well-known suppressors HC-Pro and p19 but not of the potato mop-top virus p8 CRP. These results indicate that BNYVV- and TRV-encoded CRPs suppress RNA silencing more efficiently in roots than in leaves.
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