Molecular Plant Pathology – Pathogen Profiles

Cauliflower mosaic virus: still in the news

Muriel Haas, Marina Bureau, Angèle Geldreich, Pierre Yot and Mario Keller

Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes CNRS, Université Louis Pasteur, 12 rue du Général Zimmer, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France

Taxonomic relationship:Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) is the type member of the Caulimovirus genus in the Caulimoviridae family, which comprises five other genera. CaMV replicates its DNA genome by reverse transcription of a pregenomic RNA and thus belongs to the pararetrovirus supergroup, which includes the Hepadnaviridae family infecting vertebrates.

Physical properties:Virions are non-enveloped isometric particles, 53 nm in diameter (Fig. 1). They are constituted by 420 capsid protein subunits organized following T= 7 icosahedral symmetry (Cheng, R.H., Olson, N.H. and Baker, T.S. (1992) Cauliflower mosaic virus: a 420 subunit (T= 7), multilayer structure. Virology, 16, 655-668). The genome consists of a double-stranded circular DNA of approximately 8000 bp that is embedded in the inner surface of the capsid.

Viral proteins:The CaMV genome encodes six proteins, a cell-to-cell movement protein (P1), two aphid transmission factors (P2 and P3), the precursor of the capsid proteins (P4), a polyprotein precursor of proteinase, reverse transcriptase and ribonuclease H (P5) and an inclusion body protein/translation transactivator (P6).

Hosts:The host range of CaMV is limited to plants of the Cruciferae family, i.e. Brassicae species and Arabidopsis thaliana, but some viral strains can also infect solanaceous plants. In nature, CaMV is transmitted by aphids in a non-circulative manner.

Electron micrograph of CaMV virions. 
Courtesy of J. Menissier de Murcia, Ecole Supérieure de Biotechnologie de Strasbourg.