Research Article | Published:

Spontaneous change of a benign satellite RNA of cucumber mosaic virus to a pathogenic variant

Nature Biotechnologyvolume 14pages12641268 (1996) | Download Citation



Plant satellite RNAs generally reduce the level of helper virus accumulation and attenuate the disease symptoms induced by the helper virus that they depend upon for replication and packaging. As such, satellite RNAs could be used as biocontrol agents to reduce the level of disease in field crops, either by the application of a viral vaccine to healthy plants, or by the transgenic expression of satellite RNA in transformed plants. One such virus/satellite RNA system already under use in field tests is cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and its satellite RNAs. However, in this system, some satellite RNAs also intensify viral disease in particular host plants. We passaged a satellite RNA of CMV with its helper virus to determine whether a satellite RNA that attenuates CMV-induced disease on tobacco plants could mutate to a pathogenic form, which might then be selected. In several experiments involving strains of CMV from each of the two subgroups, the satellite rapidly mutated to a pathogenic form, which was selected. This demonstrates an inherent risk associated with the use of attenuating satellite RNAs as a form of biocontrol of CMV.

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  1. Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853

    • Peter Palukaitis
  2. Plant Biology Division, The S.R. Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK, 73402

    • Marilyn J. Roossinck


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Correspondence to Marilyn J. Roossinck.

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