The unfolded protein response is triggered by a plant viral movement protein.
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Infection with Potato virus X (PVX) in Nicotiana benthamiana plants leads to increased transcript levels of several stress-related host genes, including basic-region leucine zipper 60 (bZIP60), SKP1, ER luminal binding protein (BiP), protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), calreticulin (CRT), and calmodulin (CAM). bZIP60 is a key transcription factor that responds to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and induces the expression of ER-resident chaperones (BiP, PDI, CRT, and CAM). SKP1 is a component of SCF (for SKP1-Cullin-F box protein) ubiquitin ligase complexes that target proteins for proteasomal degradation. Expression of PVX TGBp3 from a heterologous vector induces the same set of genes in N. benthamiana and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) leaves. Virus-induced gene silencing was employed to knock down the expression of bZIP60 and SKP1, and the number of infection foci on inoculated leaves was reduced and systemic PVX accumulation was altered. Silencing bZIP60 led to the suppression of BiP and SKP1 transcript levels, suggesting that bZIP60 might be an upstream signal transducer. Overexpression of TGBp3 led to localized necrosis, but coexpression of TGBp3 with BiP abrogated necrosis, demonstrating that the unfolded protein response alleviates ER stress-related cell death. Steady-state levels of PVX replicase and TGBp2 (which reside in the ER) proteins were unaltered by the presence of TGBp3, suggesting that TGBp3 does not contribute to their turnover. Taken together, PVX TGBp3-induced ER stress leads to up-regulation of bZIP60 and unfolded protein response-related gene expression, which may be important to regulate cellular cytotoxicity that could otherwise lead to cell death if viral proteins reach high levels in the ER.