Inhibition of plant viral systemic infection by non-toxic concentrations of cadmium

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Heavy metals, such as cadmium, have a significant impact on plant physiology. However, their potential effect on plant-pathogen interaction, an important biological process, has not been examined. This study shows that exposure of tobacco plants to non-toxic concentrations of cadmium completely blocked viral disease caused by turnip vein clearing virus. Cadmium-mediated viral protection was due to inhibition of the systemic movement of the virus, i.e. its spread from the inoculated into uninoculated leaves. Exposure of plants to cadmium had no effect on viral replication, assembly and local movement within the inoculated leaf. Analysis of the viral presence in different tissues suggested that cadmium treatment inhibited virus exit from the vascular tissue into uninoculated leaves rather than its entry into the host plant vasculature. Higher, toxic levels of cadmium did not produce this inhibitory effect on viral movement, allowing the systemic spread of the virus and development of the viral disease. These observations suggest that cadmium-induced viral protection requires a relatively healthy, unpoisoned plant in which non-toxic levels of cadmium may trigger the production of cellular factors which interfere with the viral systemic movement.

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