Carrasco, Jose L.; Jesus A. Sanchez-Navarro and Santiago F. Elena

Genes orthologous to the 30K-superfamily of movement proteins (MP) from plant viruses have been recently discovered by bioinformatics analyses as integrated elements in the genome of most vascular plants. However, their functional relevance for plants is still unclear. Here, we undertake some preliminary steps into the functional characterization of one of these putative MP genes found in Arabidopsis thaliana. We found that the AtMP gene is expressed at different stages of the plant development, with accumulation being highest in flowers but lowest in mature siliques. We also found down-regulation of the gene may result in a small delay in plant development and in an exacerbation of the negative effect of salinity in germination efficiency. We have also explored whether changes in expression of the endogenous AtMP have any effect on susceptibility to infection with several viruses, and found that the infectivity of tobacco rattle tobravirus was strongly dependent on the expression of the endogenous AtMP. Finally, we have cloned the endogenous MP from four different plant species into an expression vector that allows for specifically assessing their activity as cell-to-cell movement proteins and have shown that though some may still retain the ancestral activity, they do so in a quite inefficient manner, thus suggesting they have acquired a novel function during adaptation to the host genome.