Helical capsids of plant viruses: architecture with structural lability.
The Soybean mosaic virus (SMV) coat protein (CP) is necessary for virion assembly and viral cell-to-cell and long-distance movements in plants. We previously showed that the C-terminal region of the SMV CP is required for CP self-interaction. In the present study, we generated SMV mutants containing CPs with single amino acid substitutions of the charged amino acids in the C-proximal region. Infectivity and cell-to-cell movement of the SMV mutants were examined in soybean plants. Through this genetic approach, we identified three charged amino acid residues (R245, H246, and D250) in the surface-exposed C-terminus of the SMV CP that are critical for virus cell-to-cell and long-distance movement. Our findings suggest that the identified charged amino acids in the surface-exposed C-terminus of SMV CP are critical for CP intersubunit interactions and thereby for cell-to-cell and long-distance movement and virion assembly.