The bipartite geminiviruses such as tomato golden mosaic virus (TGMV) and squash leaf curl virus (SqLCV) have two single-stranded circular genomic DNAs, the A and B components, thought to be replicated from double-stranded circular DNA intermediates. Although it has been presumed that the origin sequences for viral replication are located in the highly conserved 200-nucleotide common region (CR) present in both genomic components and that the viral-encoded AL1 protein interacts with these sequences to effect replication, there has been no evidence that this is in fact so. We have investigated these questions, demonstrating selectivity and sequence specificity in this protein-DNA interaction. Simple component switching between the DNAs of TGMV and SqLCV and analysis of replication in leaf discs showed that whereas the A components of both TGMV and SqLCV promote their own replication and that of their cognate B component, neither replicates the noncognate B component. Furthermore, using an in vivo functional replication assay, we found that cloned viral CR sequences function as a replication origin and direct the replication of nonviral sequences in the presence of AL1, with both circular single-stranded and double-stranded DNA being synthesized. Finally, by the creation of chimeric viral CRs and specific subfragments of the viral CR, we demonstrated sequence-specific recognition of the replication origin by the AL1 protein, thereby localizing the origin to an approximately 90-nucleotide segment in the AL1 proximal side of the CR that includes the conserved geminiviral stem-loop structure and approximately 60 nucleotides of 5' upstream sequence. By deletional analysis, we further demonstrated that the conserved stem-loop structure is essential for replication. These studies identify the functional viral origin of replication within the CR, demonstrating that sequence-specific recognition of this origin by the AL1 protein is required for replication.
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