1Department of Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, U.S.A.; 2Plant Biology Division, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK, U.S.A.
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Accepted 1 July 2002.
Viroids are the smallest plant pathogens. These RNAs do not encode proteins and are not encapsidated, and yet they can replicate autonomously, move systemically, and cause diseases in infected plants. Notably, strains of a viroid with subtle differences in nucleotide sequences can cause dramatically different symptoms in infected plants. These features make viroids unique probes to investigate the role of a pathogenic RNA genome in triggering host responses. We conducted a comprehensive analysis of the differential gene expression patterns of tomato plants at various stages of infection by a mild and severe strain of Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd). We also compared tomato gene expression altered by the PSTVd strains with that altered by Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). Our analyses revealed that the two PSTVd strains altered expression of both common and unique tomato genes. These genes encode products involved in defense/stress response, cell wall structure, chloroplast function, protein metabolism, and other diverse functions. Five genes have unknown functions. Four genes are novel. The expression of some but not all of these genes was also altered by TMV infection. Our results indicate that viroids, although structurally simple, can trigger complex host responses. Further characterization of viroid-altered gene expression in a host plant should help understand viroid pathogenicity and, potentially, the mechanisms of RNA-mediated regulation of plant gene expression.
© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society