Induction of plant cell division by beet curly top virus gene C4


*For correspondence (fax +1603 456844; e-mail John.Stanley@BBSRC.AC.UK).


Beet curly top virus (BCTV) is a small DNA virus that causes tumorigenic growths (enations) in infected plants by inducing division of phloem parenchyma cells (hyperplasia). It has previously been shown that BCTV C4 plays an important role in symptom development in sugarbeet and Nicotiana benthamiana, and it has been suggested that this gene is responsible for the induction of hyperplasia. Using in situ hybridization, we show that BCTV infection is closely associated with the vascular system in these hosts, although hyperplastic cells associated with wild-type virus infection frequently do not contain detectable levels of viral DNA. Extensive hyperplasia was not observed in plants infected with a C4 mutant, demonstrating a role for C4 in virus-induced cell proliferation. Ectopic expression of C4 in transgenic N. benthamiana resulted in abnormal plant development and the production of tumorigenic growths, confirming that this gene alone is sufficient to initiate cell division in permissive cells when removed from the context of the viral genome.