During the infection of plants, Agrobacterium tumefaciens introduces several Virulence proteins including VirE2, VirF, VirD5 and VirE3 into plant cells in addition to the T-DNA. Here, we report that double mutation of virF and virE3 leads to strongly diminished tumor formation on tobacco, tomato and sunflower. The VirE3 protein is translated from a polycistronic mRNA containing the virE1, virE2 and virE3 genes, in Agrobacterium. The VirE3 protein has nuclear localization sequences, which suggests that it is transported into the plant cell nucleus upon translocation. Indeed we show here that VirE3 interacts in vitro with importin-alpha and that a VirE3-GFP fusion protein is localized in the nucleus. VirE3 also interacts with two other proteins, viz. pCsn5, a component of the COP9 signalosome and pBrp, a plant specific general transcription factor belonging to the TFIIB family. We found that VirE3 is able to induce transcription in yeast when bound to DNA through the GAL4-BD. Our data indicate that the translocated effector protein VirE3 is transported into the nucleus and there it may interact with the transcription factor pBrp to induce the expression of genes needed for tumor development.
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