Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 58–82

The spread of Tobacco mosaic virus infection: insights into the cellular mechanism of RNA transport

  • M. Heinlein

DOI: 10.1007/s00018-002-8406-x

Cite this article as:
Heinlein, M. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2002) 59: 58. doi:10.1007/s00018-002-8406-x


Interactions of plant cells with pathogens or other biotic or abiotic environmental factors can give rise to systemic defense responses that rely upon the cell-to-cell and systemic transport of specific signals. A novel type of systemic signaling was revealed by recent evidence indicating the existence of RNA species that travel cell to cell and through the vasculature. The most compelling evidence for intercellular and systemic transport of RNA in plants is provided by viroids and viruses that apparently use the endogenous transport machinery to spread infection. The cell to cell movement of plant viruses occurs through small pores in the cell wall known as plasmodesmata and depends on virus-encoded 'movement proteins'. This review summarizes current knowledge of Tobacco mosaic virus infection with emphasis on the mechanism by which this virus targets its RNA genome from sites of replication to plasmodesmata to achieve intercellular spread.

Key words. TMV; movement protein; GFP; RNA transport; microtubules; gene silencing.

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Heinlein
    • 1
  1. 1.Friedrich-Miescher Institute, Maulbeerstrasse 66, 4058 Basel (Switzerland), Fax +41 61 697 3976, e-mail: heinlein@fmi.chCH