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Tomato yellow leaf curl Sardinia virus-resistant tomato plants expressing the multifunctional N-terminal domain of the replication-associated protein show transcriptional changes resembling stress-related responses



The N-terminal domain (amino acids 1–130) of the replication-associated protein (Rep130) of Tomato yellow leaf curl Sardinia virus (TYLCSV) retains the ability of full-length Rep to localize to the nucleus and to down-regulate C1 transcription when ectopically expressed in plants, both functions being required to inhibit homologous viral replication. In this study, we analysed the effect of Rep130 expression on virus resistance and the plant transcriptome in the natural and agronomically important host species of TYLCSV, Solanum lycopersicum. Tomato plants accumulating high levels of Rep130 were generated and proved to be resistant to TYLCSV. Using an in vitro assay, we showed that plant-expressed Rep130 also retains the catalytic activity of Rep, thus supporting the notion that this protein domain is fully functional. Interestingly, Rep130-expressing tomatoes were characterized by an altered transcriptional profile resembling stress-related responses. Notably, the serine-type protease inhibitor (Ser-PI) category was over-represented among the 20 up-regulated genes. The involvement of Rep130 in the alteration of host mRNA steady-state levels was confirmed using a distinct set of virus-resistant transgenic tomato plants expressing the same TYLCSV Rep130, but from a different, synthetic, gene. Eight genes were found to be up-regulated in both types of transgenic tomato and two encoded Ser-PIs. Four of these eight genes were also up-regulated in TYLCSV-infected wild-type tomato plants. Implications with regard to the ability of this Rep domain to interfere with viral infections and to alter the host transcriptome are discussed.