Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2005 Apr 7;102(14):5168-73. Epub 2005 Mar 7.
Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is transmitted exclusively by thrips in nature. A reassortment-based viral genetic system was used to map transmissibility by thrips to the medium (M) RNA of TSWV. To locate determinants of thrips transmission in the M RNA, 30 single-lesion isolates (SLIs) were generated from a single TSWV isolate that was inefficiently transmitted by thrips. Three of the 30 SLIs were transmitted by thrips, and 27 were not. Sequence analysis of the M RNA, thrips transmissibility assays, G(C) protein analysis, and transmission electron microscopic studies revealed that a specific nonsynonymous mutation (C1375A) in the G(N)/G(C) ORF of the M RNA resulted in the loss of thrips transmissibility without inhibition of virion assembly. This was in contrast to other nontransmissible SLIs, which had frameshift and/or nonsense mutations in the G(N)/G(C) ORF but were defective in virion assembly. The G(C) glycoprotein was detectable in the C1375A mutants but not in the frameshift or nonsense mutants. We report a specific viral determinant associated with virus transmission by thrips. In addition, the loss of transmissibility was associated with the accumulation of defective haplotypes in the population, which are not transmissible by thrips, rather than with the presence of a dominant haplotype that is inefficiently transmitted by thrips. These results also indicate that the glycoproteins may not be required for TSWV infection of plant hosts but are required for transmissibility by thrips.