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Abstract

In addition to their function in transport of water, ions, small metabolites, and growth factors in normal plant tissue, the plasmodesmata presumably serve as routes for cell-to-cell movement of plant viruses in infected tissue. Virus cell-to-cell spread through plasmodesmata is an active process mediated by specialized virus encoded movement proteins; however, the mechanism by which these proteins operate is not clear. We incorporate recent information on the biochemical properties of plant virus movement proteins and their interaction with plasmodesmata in a model for transport of nucleic acids through plasmodesmatal channels. We propose that only single stranded (ss) nucleic acids can be transported efficiently through plasmodesmata, and that movement proteins function as molecular chaperones for ss nucleic acids to form unfolded movement protein-ss nucleic acid complexes. These complexes are targeted to plasmodesmata. Plasmodesmatal permeability is then increased following interaction with movement protein and the entire movement complex or its nucleic acid component is translocated across the plasmodesmatal channel.