Geminivirus C4 protein alters Arabidopsis development
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The C4 protein of beet curly top virus [BCTV-B (US:Log:76)] induces hyperplasia in infected phloem tissue and tumorigenic growths in transgenic plants. The protein offers an excellent model for studying cell cycle control, cell differentiation, and plant development. To investigate the role of the C4 protein in plant development, transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants were generated in which the C4 transgene was expressed under the control of an inducible promoter. A detailed analysis of the developmental changes that occur in cotyledons and hypocotyls of seedlings expressing the C4 transgene showed extensive cell division in all tissues types examined, radically altered tissue layer organization, and the absence of a clearly defined vascular system. Induced seedlings failed to develop true leaves, lateral roots, and shoot and root apical meristems, as well as vascular tissue. Specialized epidermis structures, such as stomata and root hairs, were either absent or developmentally impaired in seedlings that expressed C4 protein. Exogenous application of brassinosteroid and abscisic acid weakly rescued the C4-induced phenotype, while induced seedlings were hypersensitive to gibberellic acid and kinetin. These results indicate that ectopic expression of the BCTV C4 protein in A. thaliana drastically alters plant development, possibly through the disruption of multiple hormonal pathways.