Insect on plant potentially spreading viral infection. Insect on plant potentially spreading viral infection.

Do Viruses Infect Plants? Delving into the Plants’ World

We all love plants and most of us have them in our small gardens, lawns, or terraces. I am sure, you must have noticed the discoloration in leaves and flowers, ringed spots, or malformed leaves in your home plants or any parks and fields. Have you ever tried to find out the reason behind this? Mostly we think, it’s due to insects or seasonal changes. But, that’s not always the case.

Do you know that plant cells are like human or animal cells? They also get infected by viruses, specifically by plant viruses. These infected plants become a hindrance to the sustainable growth of the plant. I must tell you that this is a very common problem. And, you should also know about how plants get infected and how they cope with the infection.

So here, I’ll tell you everything in detail. Not only this, we will also discuss on what are the symptoms of an infected plant, what are the causal agents, and how crop yields are affected.

Plants Do Get Infected by Viruses

Virus particles attack all plants. It starts as easily as the virus reaching just one plant cell. But before multiplication happens, the virus needs to get adapted to the plant’s cells. This is because viruses do not have any cell machinery of their own to replicate. They utilize the host cell’s machinery (the attacked plant in this case) to replicate.

Now, these multiple viruses move to the neighboring cells and continue the molecular mechanisms of virus replication until they reach the plant’s vascular system. After this, they can infect the entire plant, right from the roots to the leaves.

Do You Know About the Plant Immune Response?

Like all other living beings plants also have their own immunity system, so when the viruses attack the plant, they begin their immune response called gene silencing against the viral infection. So, the plant cells basically cut off the viral RNA into small pieces to turn it off. Due to the turning off the genetic material can no longer replicate.

I find plant biology very fascinating. I mean how an infected plant cell can send a signal to initiate the immune response even before the neighboring cell is infected. Thus, providing them time for the action.

Although this explains the plant’s immunity action, it does not end here. Yes, there is a special set of proteins used for this mechanism.

But, the viruses present can also produce similar proteins that interfere with the plant’s defense mechanism. It can bind with the receptor site, in place of the immunity-providing cells. Sometimes, it can also modify the site of binding thus enabling the action of the virus over that of the plant.

Moreover, systemic infection is not limited to this only. The virus infection doesn’t just infect plants but they can produce their own defense attack after being attacked by the plant’s immune system. These counterattacks can be very harmful to the plant as the attack now becomes very focused.

All of this is very complicated and there are various steps or layers in the process. Even plants have sites and locations for good defense.

They also need to be always prepared with plan B, In case they do not get the preferred path. Various proteins come along to develop a better and stronger response.

So, it is basically the play of all these attacks and counterattacks that help determine the outcome. It is also affected by the extent of the infection process, genetic resistance, and other factors.

Let me Tell You About Different Viral Diseases in Plants

Different types of plant disease have varied symptoms like abnormal green mosaic disease, mottling of leaves, necrotic spots, stunting, and growth distortion. Multiple viruses can infect a healthy plant. This condition of multiple infections can lead to the accumulation of various symptoms, affecting the plant very severely.

  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV)- The infection is spread worldwide, and the spread is quick and wide due to easy adaptability to different hosts. The symptoms include mosaic patterns of dark and light green areas in infected plants. It is usually transmitted by people handling infected and non-infected plants simultaneously.
  • Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV)- The virus has multiple strains and symptoms, including stunting, distortion, and mosaic on flowers and leaves. It affects a wide variety of plants like Coreopsis, Chrysanthemum, Echinops, Leonotis, and Lobelia. It is spread by plant-to-plant transmission and by humans handling the plants too.
  • Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TMWV)- The infected plants show bronzing of the young leaves, which later turn into necrotic spots. On ripe fruits, you can see blotches and chlorotic spots as well. It is spread by various species of thrips and affects the host plants across the globe.

I hope now you understand how plants infected by viruses experience several problems with their molecular biology, The virus movement and molecular virology affect healthy plants working, growth, and life overall. Plant pathologists are trying to derive methods of defense which can be introduced into plants but another problem is that plants do not have any genetic resistance.

However, artificial gene silencing and genome editing are now being used to boost the immune system of plants.

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Pragya


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Very helpful article about the infections and viruses in plants.
    Infection with a plant virus modifies vector feeding behavior. We should keep ourselves away for eating these plants.

  2. I found this article on plant virus infections truly intriguing. Exploring how viruses can attack various plants, even through a simple insect bite, was eye-opening. The detailed process of virus initiation at a single plant cell and its adaptation to the plant’s cells before replication was explained in a clear and engaging manner. The mention of the plant’s immune response, particularly gene silencing, added another layer of complexity that I found fascinating as it helps the plant combat viral infections effectively.

  3. As a person from computer science background, it’s fascinating to read about infection in plants. This article delves into an often-unnoticed realm, shedding light on how these infections impact agriculture and ecosystems. Understanding how plant viruses spread and their consequences is crucial in safeguarding our environment and food security. It’s fascinating to uncover the intricate dynamics between viruses and plants!

  4. The response even in plant bodies when being infected with the disease is fascinating. The article delves into the aspects related to the virus infection in plants. It tells us that we need to find out more solutions for effectively tackling such infections, even if the plant science developed a lot. The write up gives us a clear insight about plant viruses. A useful topic to read.

  5. Well , this article is very helpful to acquire a knowledge of plant virus infections, it infected by virus start with a insect bite ,as viruses cannot anything by themselves, the virus has to reach a single cell to initiate infections.

  6. I am from biology background , and guess what in love with plants, and I found this article very helpful. Tobacco Mosaic Virus is indeed a very unwanted attacks the plant when you least expect it. I like how the article goes into detail to help the readers understand the underlying mechanism of plants’ immune response, which is very similar to those of the animals.

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