Interfamilial recombination between viruses led to acquisition of a novel translation-enhancing RNA element that allows resistance breaking



  • Many plant viruses depend on functional RNA elements, called 3′-UTR cap-independent translation enhancers (3′-CITEs), for translation of their RNAs. In this manuscript we provide direct proof for the existing hypothesis that 3′-CITEs are modular and transferable by recombination in nature, and that this is associated with an advantage for the created virus.
  • By characterizing a newly identified Melon necrotic spot virus (MNSV; Tombusviridae) isolate, which is able to overcome eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E)-mediated resistance, we found that it contains a 55 nucleotide insertion in its 3′-UTR. We provide strong evidence that this insertion was acquired by interfamilial recombination with the 3′-UTR of an Asiatic Cucurbit aphid-borne yellows virus (CABYV; Luteoviridae).
  • By constructing chimeric viruses, we showed that this recombined sequence is responsible for resistance breaking. Analysis of the translational efficiency of reporter constructs showed that this sequence functions as a novel 3′-CITE in both resistant and susceptible plants, being essential for translation control in resistant plants.
  • In conclusion, we showed that a recombination event between two clearly identified viruses from different families led to the transfer of exactly the sequence corresponding to a functional RNA element, giving rise to a new isolate with the capacity to infect an otherwise nonsusceptible host.