Recovery of recombinant negative-stranded RNA viruses from cloned cDNAs is an inefficient process as multiple viral components need to be delivered into cells for reconstitution of infectious entities. Previously studies have shown that authentic viral RNA termini are essential for efficient virus rescue. However, little is known about the activity of viral RNAs processed by different strategies in supporting recovery of plant negative-stranded RNA virus.
In this study, we used several versions of hammerhead ribozymes and a truncated cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter to generate precise 5' termini of sonchus yellow net rhabdovirus (SYNV) antigenomic RNA (agRNA) derivatives. These agRNAs were co-expressed with the SYNV core proteins in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves to evaluate their efficiency in supporting fluorescent reporter gene expression from an SYNV minireplicon (MR) and rescue of full-length virus.
Optimization of hammerhead ribozyme cleavage activities led to improved SYNV MR reporter gene expression. Although the MR agRNA processed by the most active hammerhead variants is comparable to the capped, precisely transcribed agRNA in supporting MR activity, efficient recovery of recombinant SYNV was only achieved with capped agRNA. Further studies showed that the capped SYNV agRNA permitted transient expression of the nucleocapsid (N) protein, and an agRNA derivatives unable to express the N protein in cis exhibited dramatically reduced rescue efficiency.
Our study reveals superior activity of precisely transcribed, capped SYNV agRNAs to uncapped, hammerhead ribozyme-processed agRNAs, and suggests a cis-acting function for the N protein expressed from the capped agRNA during recovery of SYNV from plasmids.