Tobraviruses—plant pathogens and tools for biotechnology




The tobraviruses, Tobacco rattle virus (TRV), Pea early-browning virus (PEBV) and Pepper ringspot virus (PepRSV), are positive-strand RNA viruses with rod-shaped virus particles that are transmitted between plants by trichodorid nematodes. As a group, these viruses infect many plant species, with TRV having the widest host range. Recent studies have begun to dissect the interaction of TRV with potato, currently the most commercially important crop disease caused by any of the tobraviruses. As well as being successful plant pathogens, these viruses have become widely used as vectors for expression in plants of nonviral proteins or, more frequently, as initiators of virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS). Precisely why tobraviruses should be so effective as VIGS vectors is not known; however, molecular studies of the mode of action of the tobravirus silencing suppressor protein are shedding some light on this process.