Persistent Plant Viruses: Molecular Hitchhikers or Epigenetic Elements?
Many plants harbor persistent cytoplasmic viruses that are not transmitted horizontally and do not move from cell to cell. These viruses have extensive longevity within individual plant cultivars. Based on phylogenetic evidence they appear to undergo rare transmission events between plants and fungi. Very few functions have been attributed to persistent viruses in plants, but their longevity and protection from the plant’s immune system suggest that they provide a selective advantage for their hosts, at least under some conditions. In addition, some persistent plant virus sequences have been found in plant genomes and are expressed as functional genes. Hence, rather than simply molecular hitchhikers, they may be cytoplasmic epigenetic elements that could provide genetic information to their plant hosts.
KeywordsCoat Protein Plant Virus White Clover Fungal Virus Persistent Virus
The author thanks Dr. X. Bao for careful reading of the manuscript, and Dr. L. Márquez for art work. This work was supported in part by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation; the Pennsylvania State University; the National Science Foundation grant numbers EF-0627108, EPS-0447262, IOS-0950579 and IOS-1157148; and the United States Department of Agriculture grant number OKLR-2007-01012.
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