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Reprogramming plant gene expression: a prerequisite to geminivirus DNA replication


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Geminiviruses constitute a large family of plant-infecting viruses with small, single-stranded DNA genomes that replicate through double-stranded intermediates. Because of their limited coding capacity, geminiviruses supply only the factors required to initiate their replication and use plant nuclear DNA polymerases to amplify their genomes. Many geminiviruses replicate in differentiated cells that no longer contain detectable levels of host DNA polymerases and associated factors. To overcome this barrier, geminiviruses induce the accumulation of DNA replication machinery in mature plant cells by reprogramming host gene expression. The mammalian DNA tumour viruses activate host genes required for DNA replication by binding to the retinoblastoma protein, a negative regulator of cell cycle progression, and relieving repression through the E2F family of transcription factors. In this review, we discuss recent experiments showing that geminiviruses also modulate components of the retinoblastoma/E2F transcription regulatory network to induce quiescent plant cells to re-enter the cell cycle and regain the capacity to support high levels of DNA replication. Regulation of the cell division cycle and its integration with developmental pathways is complex, with many factors, including hormones, sucrose and environmental signals, controlling re-entry into the plant cell cycle. Geminivirus interactions with these regulatory networks are likely to determine if and where they can replicate their genomes in different plant tissues and hosts.