Geminiviruses are a large and important family of plant viruses that infect a wide range of crops throughout the world. The Begomovirus genus contains species that are transmitted by whiteflies and are distributed worldwide causing disease on an array of horticultural crops. Symptom remission, in which newly developed leaves of systemically infected plants exhibit a reduction in symptom severity (recovery), has been observed on pepper (Capsicum annuum) plants infected with Pepper golden mosaic virus (PepGMV). Previous studies have shown that transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanisms are involved in the reduction of viral nucleic acid concentration in recovered tissue. In this study, we employed deep transcriptome sequencing methods to assess transcriptional variation in healthy (mock), symptomatic, and recovered pepper leaves following PepGMV infection.
Differential expression analyses of the pepper leaf transcriptome from symptomatic and recovered stages revealed a total of 309 differentially expressed genes between healthy (mock) and symptomatic or recovered tissues. Computational prediction of differential expression was validated using quantitative reverse-transcription PCR confirming the robustness of our bioinformatic methods. Within the set of differentially expressed genes associated with the recovery process were genes involved in defense responses including pathogenesis-related proteins, reactive oxygen species, systemic acquired resistance, jasmonic acid biosynthesis, and ethylene signaling. No major differences were found when compared the differentially expressed genes in symptomatic and recovered tissues. On the other hand, a set of genes with novel roles in defense responses was identified including genes involved in histone modification. This latter result suggested that post-transcriptional and transcriptional gene silencing may be one of the major mechanisms involved in the recovery process. Genes orthologous to the C. annuum proteins involved in the pepper-PepGMV recovery response were identified in both Solanum lycopersicum and Solanum tuberosum suggesting conservation of components of the viral recovery response in the Solanaceae.
These data provide a valuable source of information for improving our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms by which pepper leaves become symptomless following infection with geminiviruses. The identification of orthologs for the majority of genes differentially expressed in recovered tissues in two major solanaceous crop species provides the basis for future comparative analyses of the viral recovery process across related taxa.