To investigate the role of individual structural domains in viroid pathogenicity and replication, a series of interspecific chimeras was constructed by exchanging the terminal left (TL) and/or pathogenicity (P) domains between tomato apical stunt (TASVd) and citrus exocortis (CEVd) viroids. All six chimeras tested were replicated stably in tomato, and the symptoms exhibited by infected plants were intermediate between those induced by the parental viroids. Quantitative comparisons of symptom development and progeny accumulation revealed that: (i) the TL domain of TASVd contains a determinant required for appearance of severe veinal necrosis in tomato, (ii) the severe epinasty and stunting characteristic of TASVd requires the presence of its TL and P domains, and (iii) the variable (V) and terminal right (TR) domains comprising the right side of the native structure also play an important role in viroid pathogenicity. Chimeras containing the right side of TASVd accumulated to higher levels early in infection, and infected plants developed more severe symptoms than those whose right halves were derived from CEVd. Although the individual contributions of the TL and P domains to symptom induction could not be completely separated from that of viroid titer, the TL domain appears to exert a greater effect upon symptom severity than does the P domain. The TL, P, V, and TR domains of TASVd and CEVd contain three discrete regions of sequence and/or structural variability that may correspond to the pathogenicity determinants uncovered by our genetic analysis.
Sano, T., Candresse, T., Hammond, R. W., Diener, T. O., & Owens, R. A. (1992). Identification of multiple structural domains regulating viroid pathogenicity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 89(21), 10104–10108. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.89.21.10104