Mitoviruses (genus Mitovirus, family Narnaviridae) are mitochondrially replicating viruses that have the simplest positive-sense RNA genomes of 2.2 to 4.4 kb with a single open reading frame (ORF) encoding an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Cryphonectria parasitica mitovirus 1 (CpMV1) from U.S. strain NB631 of the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, was the first virus identified as a mitochondrially replicating virus. Despite subsequent discovery of many other mitoviruses from diverse fungi, no great advances in understanding mitovirus biology have emerged, partly because of the lack of inoculation methods. Here we developed a protoplast fusion-based protocol for horizontal transmission of CpMV1 that entailed fusion of recipient and donor protoplasts, hyphal anastomosis, and single-conidium isolation. This method allowed expansion of the host range to many other C. parasitica strains. Species within and outside the family Cryphonectriaceae, Cryphonectria radicalis and Valsa ceratosperma, also supported the replication of CpMV1 at a level comparable to that in the natural host. No stable maintenance of CpMV1 was observed in Helminthosporium victoriae. PCR-based haplotyping of virus-infected fungal strains confirmed the recipient mitochondrial genetic background. Phenotypic comparison between CpMV1-free and -infected isogenic strains revealed no overt effects of the virus. Taking advantage of the infectivity to the standard strain C. parasitica EP155, accumulation levels were compared among antiviral RNA silencing-proficient and -deficient strains in the EP155 background. Comparable accumulation levels were observed among these strains, suggesting the avoidance of antiviral RNA silencing by CpMV1, which is consistent with its mitochondrial replication. Collectively, the results of study provide a foundation to further explore the biology of mitoviruses. IMPORTANCE Capsidless mitoviruses, which are ubiquitously detected in filamentous fungi, have the simplest RNA genomes of 2.2 to 4.4 kb, encoding only RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Despite their simple genomes, detailed biological characterization of mitoviruses has been hampered by their mitochondrial location within the cell, posing challenges to their experimental introduction and study. Here we developed a protoplast fusion-based protocol for horizontal transfer of the prototype mitovirus, Cryphonectria parasitica mitovirus 1 (CpMV1), which was isolated from strain NB631 of the chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), a model filamentous fungus for studying virus-host interactions. The host range of CpMV1 has been expanded to many different strains of C. parasitica and different fungal species within and outside the Cryphonectriaceae. Comparison of CpMV1 accumulation among various RNA silencing-deficient and -competent strains showed clearly that the virus was unaffected by RNA silencing. This study provides a solid foundation for further exploration of mitovirus-host interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science
- Chestnut blight
- Cryphonectria parasitica
- RNA silencing