Molecular Plant Pathology – Pathogen Profiles

Cucumber mosaic virus, a model for RNA virus evolution

Marilyn J. Roossinck
Plant Biology Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK 73402, USA

Taxonomic relationships:Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) is the type member of the Cucumovirus genus, in the family Bromoviridae. Additional members of the genus are Peanut stunt virus(PSV) and Tomato aspermy virus (TAV). The RNAs 3 of all members of the genus can be exchanged and still yield a viable virus, while the RNAs 1 and 2 can only be exchanged within a species.
Physical properties:The virus particles are about 29 nm in diameter, and are composed of 180 subunits (T = 3 icosahedral symmetry). The particles sediment with an s value of approximately 98. The virions contain 18% RNA, and are highly labile, relying on RNA-protein interactions for their integrity. The three genomic RNAs, designated RNA 1 (3.3 kb in length), RNA 2 (3.0 kb) and RNA 3 (2.2 kb) are packaged in individual particles; a subgenomic RNA, RNA 4 (1.0 kb), is packaged with the genomic RNA 3, making all the particles roughly equivalent in composition. In some strains an additional subgenomic RNA, RNA 4A is also encapsidated at low levels. The genomic RNAs are single stranded, plus sense RNAs with 5′ cap structures, and 3′ conserved regions that can be folded into tRNA-like structures.
Satellite RNAs:CMV can harbour molecular parasites known as satellite RNAs (satRNAs) that can dramatically alter the symptom phenotype induced by the virus. The CMV satRNAs do not encode any proteins but rely on the RNA for their biological activity.
Host range:CMV infects over 1000 species of hosts, including members of 85 plant families, making it the broadest host range virus known. The virus is transmitted from host to host by aphid vectors, in a nonpersistent manner.