The multiplicity of infection (MOI), i.e., the number of viral genomes that infect a cell, is an important parameter in virus evolution, which for each virus and environment may have an optimum value that maximizes virus fitness. Thus, the MOI might be controlled by virus functions, an underexplored hypothesis in eukaryote-infecting viruses. To analyze if the MOI is controlled by virus functions, we estimated the MOI in plants coinfected by two genetic variants of Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV); by TBSV and a TBSV-derived defective interfering RNA (DI-RNA); or by TBSV and a second tombusvirus, Cymbidium ringspot virus (CymRSV). The MOI was significantly larger in TBSV-CymRSV coinfections (~4.0) than in TBSV-TBSV or TBSV-DI-RNA coinfections (~1.7 to 2.2). Coinfections by CymRSV or TBSV with chimeras in which an open reading frame (ORF) of one virus species was replaced by that of the other identified a role of viral proteins in determining the MOI, which ranged from 1.6 to 3.9 depending on the coinfecting genotypes. However, no virus-encoded protein or genomic region was the sole MOI determinant. Coinfections by CymRSV and TBSV mutants in which the expression of the gene-silencing suppressor protein p19 was abolished also showed a possible role of gene silencing in MOI determination. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the MOI is a quantitative trait showing continuous variation and that as such it has a complex determination involving different virus-encoded functions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas