Bean pod mottle virus (BPMV) is a bipartite, positive-sense (+) RNA plant virus in the Secoviridae family. Its RNA1 encodes proteins required for genome replication, whereas RNA2 primarily encodes proteins needed for virion assembly and cell-to-cell movement. However, the function of a 58-kDa protein (P58) encoded by RNA2 has not been resolved. P58 and the movement protein (MP) of BPMV are two largely identical proteins differing only at their N termini, with P58 extending MP upstream by 102 amino acid residues. In this report, we unveil a unique role for P58. We show that BPMV RNA2 accumulation in infected cells was abolished when the start codon of P58 was eliminated. The role of P58 does not require the region shared by MP, as RNA2 accumulation in individual cells remained robust even when most of the MP coding sequence was removed. Importantly, the function of P58 required the P58 protein, rather than its coding RNA, as compensatory mutants could be isolated that restored RNA2 accumulation by acquiring new start codons upstream of the original one. Most strikingly, loss of P58 function could not be complemented by P58 provided in trans, suggesting that P58 functions in cis to selectively promote the accumulation of RNA2 copies that encode a functional P58 protein. Finally, we found that all RNA1-encoded proteins are cis-acting relative to RNA1. Together, our results suggest that P58 probably functions by recruiting the RNA1-encoded polyprotein to RNA2 to enable RNA2 reproduction.
IMPORTANCE Bean pod mottle virus (BPMV) is one of the most important pathogens of the crop plant soybean, yet its replication mechanism is not well understood, hindering the development of knowledge-based control measures. The current study examined the replication strategy of BPMV RNA2, one of the two genomic RNA segments of this virus, and established an essential role for P58, one of the RNA2-encoded proteins, in the process of RNA2 replication. Our study demonstrates for the first time that P58 functions preferentially with the very RNA from which it is translated, thus greatly advancing our understanding of the replication mechanisms of this and related viruses. Furthermore, this study is important because it provides a potential target for BPMV-specific control, and hence could help to mitigate soybean production losses caused by this virus.