Antibodies raised against the 126K nonstructural protein (replicase) encoded by tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) RNA or the viral coat protein have been used to localize these proteins within virus-infected tobacco leaf cells by an immunogold labeling technique. A protocol is given for low-temperature fixation to facilitate immunogold labeling. In cells of TMV-infected leaf tissue, the 126K protein immunogold label was found almost exclusively in "viroplasms" in the cytoplasm and in pockets of virus particles at the viroplasmic periphery. When utlizing the coat protein antiserum, very little labeling was seen within the viroplasms, although virus particles throughout the cytoplasm were heavily labeled. viroplasms contained electron-dense rope-like structures embedded in a ribosome-rich matrix. In their "mature" form, viroplasms are the well-known "X body" inclusions. The rope-like structures were up to 1.2 μm long and appear twisted, undergoing several revolutions throughout their length, but were not of a constant pitch. In transverse section, they appeared to be composed of several hollow, radially segmented cylinders 21 nm in diameter, with a 9-nm hole. Antibody labeling showed them to be composed, at least in part, of the 126K protein. Clusters of virus particles at the edge of or within the viroplasms were also labeled with the 126K antiserum, in contrast to virus particles in other areas of the cell, which were not. TMV-infected tobacco mesophyll protoplasts cultured for up to 27 hr did not contain the rope-like ribbons. Instead, isolated protoplasts contained amorphous cytoplasmic areas which were labeled with 126K antibody. Since the 126K protein is most probably a constituent of the TMV RNA-replicating enzyme (replicase), its intracellular location is considered to be indicative of the site of replication of TMV RNA. Therefore these results suggest that replication occurs at the edges of the viroplasms.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Drs . Anne Berns and Therese Godefroy-Colburn for the Western blotting protocol described . At the John Innes Institute, we thank Peter Watkins for skilled technical assistance . Studies at Cornell University were supported in part by Grant 84-09851 from the National Science Foundation, and by Grant 8500279 from the Competitive Grants Program of the United States Department of Agriculture .