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Trends Plant Sci. 2004 Jul;9(7):339-48.

Viroids: petite RNA pathogens with distinguished talents.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, PO Box 1527, GR-71110 Heraklion/Crete, Greece.


Viroids are small, circular, single-stranded RNA molecules that cause several infectious plant diseases. Viroids do not encode any pathogen-specific peptides but nonetheless, the subviral pathogens replicate autonomously and spread in the plant by recruiting host proteins via functional motifs encoded in their RNA genome. During the past couple of years, considerable progress has been made towards comprehending how viroids interact with their hosts. Here, we summarize recent findings on the structure-function relationships of viroids, their strategies and mechanisms of replication and trafficking, and the identification and characterization of interacting host proteins. We also describe the impact of the RNA silencing machinery of plants on viroid RNAs and how this has started to influence our models of viroid replication and pathogenicity.

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