Plant viruses move through plasmodesmata to infect new cells. The plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is interconnected among cells via the ER desmotubule in the plasmodesma across the cell wall, forming a continuous ER network throughout the entire plant. This ER continuity is unique to plants and has been postulated to serve as a platform for the intercellular trafficking of macromolecules. In the present study, the contribution of the plant ER membrane transport system to the intercellular trafficking of the NSm movement protein and Tomato spotted wilt tospovirus (TSWV) is investigated. We showed that TSWV NSm is physically associated with the ER membrane in Nicotiana benthamiana plants. An NSm-GFP fusion protein transiently expressed in single leaf cells was trafficked into neighboring cells. Mutations in NSm that impaired its association with the ER or caused its mis-localization to other subcellular sites inhibited cell-to-cell trafficking. Pharmacological disruption of the ER network severely inhibited NSm-GFP trafficking but not GFP diffusion. In the Arabidopsis thaliana mutant rhd3 with an impaired ER network, NSm-GFP trafficking was significantly reduced, whereas GFP diffusion was not affected. We also showed that the ER-to-Golgi secretion pathway and the cytoskeleton transport systems were not involved in the intercellular trafficking of TSWV NSm. Importantly, TSWV cell-to-cell spread was delayed in the ER-defective rhd3 mutant, and this reduced viral infection was not due to reduced replication. On the basis of robust biochemical, cellular and genetic analysis, we established that the ER membrane transport system serves as an important direct route for intercellular trafficking of NSm and TSWV.
Feng, Z., Xue, F., Xu, M., Chen, X., Zhao, W., Garcia-Murria, M. J., … Tao, X. (2016). The ER-Membrane Transport System Is Critical for Intercellular Trafficking of the NSm Movement Protein and Tomato Spotted Wilt Tospovirus. PLoS Pathogens, 12(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005443