The Geminiviridae comprise a group of plant viruses with small, circular, single‐stranded deoxyribonucleic acid (ssDNA) genomes encapsidated in particles that have a twinned quasi‐icosahedral (geminate) shape, from which the family derives its name. They are among the smallest of viruses known and are transmitted exclusively by specific insect vectors. Some are associated with highly diverse circular, ssDNA satellites that play a part in disease progression and provide evidence of the interaction of geminiviruses with other families of plant‐infecting viruses. Collectively, geminiviruses are pathogens of cereals, vegetable and fibre crops, posing a serious threat to agriculture worldwide. Efforts to control these viruses by conventional means have either proven unsuccessful or have not been durable. For this reason, researchers are increasingly looking to engineered resistance as a means to control these important viruses. This has recently led to the first crop with engineered resistance to a geminivirus reaching the field.

Key Concepts

  • Geminiviruses are important insect‐transmitted pathogens of cereal, vegetable and fibre crops in tropical and temperate regions throughout the world, including developed and developing countries.
  • Geminiviruses often cause striking symptoms in plants, indeed the earliest description of virus symptoms in plants is believed to relate to those caused by a geminivirus and such symptoms occasionally are considered to be horticulturally desirable.
  • All geminiviruses have single‐stranded DNA genomes and a twinned particle morphology that is unique to this family of plant viruses.
  • Some geminiviruses are associated with single‐stranded DNA satellites, referred to as alpha‐ and betasatellites, the latter playing an essential role in maintenance of the disease.
  • Because their small DNA genomes encode only a limited number of genes, geminiviruses manipulate the metabolism of the infected cell to produce conditions suitable for their proliferation.
  • Geminiviruses are proving invaluable in the investigation of fundamental biological processes such as DNA replication, cell‐cycle regulation, gene expression and pathogen resistance in plants.
  • Geminiviruses are highly recombinogenic, and the derivation of a large number of geminivirus and satellite DNA sequences is providing important insights into their diversity, adaptability and evolution.
  • Conventional control strategies, such as the use of chemicals to eliminate their insect vectors and breeding natural host plant resistance, have proven ineffective in reducing crop losses to geminivirus infection, leading to the development of promising alternative (genetically engineered) strategies.
  • Sequences derived from geminiviruses are being used to develop systems for high‐level expression of valuable proteins in plants.

Keywords: geminivirus; plant DNA virus; DNA satellite; gene expression and function; gene vectors; disease and control

Figure 1. Genome organisation of typical members of the seven genera of the family Geminiviridae. The position and orientation of virion‐sense (V) and complementary‐sense (C) genes of viruses typical of the genera Begomovirus, Becurtovirus, Curtovirus, Eragrovirus, Mastrevirus, Topocuvirus and Turncurtovirus are shown in relation to the initiation site of virion‐sense DNA replication (arbitrarily designated as nucleotide one), located within the conserved nonanucleotide TAATATTAC at the apex of a conserved hairpin structure. The hairpin structure lies within non‐coding, intergenic region (IR). Mastreviruses and becurtoviruses contain two non‐coding regions referred to as the large and small intergenic regions (LIR and SIR, respectively). The eragrovirus ECSV also has two intergenic regions, although in this case the LIR is smaller than the SIR. The mastreviruses contain two introns (boxes). The two genomic components of bipartite begomoviruses (DNAs A and B) contain an almost identical sequence of approximately 200 nucleotides referred to as the common region (CR) located almost entirely within the intergenic region (the non‐coding sequences). Also shown are the small satellite (betasatellite) and satellite‐like (alphasatellite) molecules associated with some begomoviruses. These contain a region of sequence rich in adenine (A‐rich), and the betasatellites contain a region of highly conserved sequence known as the satellite conserved region (SCR). The gene products (where their function is known) are indicated as coat protein (CP), replication‐associated protein (REP), transcriptional activator protein (TRAP), replication enhancer protein (REN), movement protein (MP) and nuclear shuttle protein (NSP). The only product encoded by betasatellites is known as βC1, whereas the alphasatellites encode REP.
Figure 2. Electron micrographs of (a) purified MSV particles showing their characteristic twinned (geminate) morphology (bar represents 100 nm), (b) three‐dimensional image reconstruction of an MSV particle based on a cryoelectron microscopy analysis (bar represents 10 nm; reproduced with permission from Zhang et al. © Elsevier) and (c) ACMV circular ssDNA showing the predominant monomeric DNA of approximately 2.8 kbp and an example of half‐size defective DNA (bar represents 100 nm).
Figure 3. Geminivirus infection cycle. Following insect transmission, virus particles are uncoated and the unencapsidated ssDNA is converted to a dsDNA intermediate that adopts a minichromosome structure for gene expression. The dsDNA serves as a template to produce ssDNA by a rolling circle mechanism involving REP, REN and host factors. Viral DNA associates with NSP, MP and possibly CP, V2 and βC1 during cell‐to‐cell movement and long‐distance systemic spread throughout the plant.
Figure 4. Geminivirus disease symptoms. (a) Mild and severe streak symptoms in MSV‐infected maize. (b) Downward leaf curl in CpCDV‐infected Nicotiana benthamiana. (c) Vein yellowing in AYVV‐infected Ageratum conyzoides. (d) Virus‐induced leaflets (enations) developing on the abaxial surface of CLCuMV‐infected cotton. (e) Chlorotic mosaic in AbMV‐infected Abutilon sellovianum. (f) Upward leaf roll and vein‐swelling in AYVV‐infected N. benthamiana, symptoms typical of many monopartite begomoviruses and curtoviruses in this host.
Figure 5. Transmitting insects. (a) MSV vector Cicadulina mbila (Naudé), (b) BCTV vector Circulifer tenellus (Baker), (c) TPCTV vector Micrutalis malleifera (Fowler) and (d) begomovirus vector Bemisia tabaci (Genn).


Aragão FJL , Nogueira EOPL , Tinoco MLP and Faria JC (2013) Molecular characterization of the first commercial transgenic common bean immune to the Bean golden mosaic virus . Journal of Biotechnology 166: 42–50.

Bock KR , Guthrie EJ and Woods RD (1974) Purification of maize streak virus and its relationship to viruses associated with streak diseases of sugar cane and Panicum maximum . Annals of Applied Biology 77: 289–296.

Briddon RW and Stanley J (2006) Sub‐viral agents associated with plant‐infecting single‐stranded DNA viruses. Virology 344: 198–210.

Brown JK , Fauquet CM , Briddon RW , et al. (2012) Geminiviridae. In: King AMQ , Adams MJ , Carstens EB and Lefkowitz EJ , (eds). Virus Taxonomy – Ninth Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, pp. 351–373. London, Waltham, San Diego: Associated Press, Elsevier Inc.

Carrillo‐Tripp J , Shimada‐Beltran H and Rivera‐Bustamante R (2006) Use of geminiviral vectors for functional genomics. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 9: 1–7.

Carvalho CM , Fontenelle MR , Florentino LH , et al. (2008) A novel nucleocytoplasmic traffic GTPase identified as a functional target of the bipartite geminivirus nuclear shuttle protein. Plant Journal 55: 869–880.

Cui X , Li G , Wang D , Hu D and Zhou X (2005) A begomovirus DNAβ‐encoded protein binds DNA, functions as a suppressor of RNA silencing, and targets the cell nucleus. Journal of Virology 79: 10764–10775.

Dickinson VJ , Halder J and Woolston CJ (1996) The product of maize streak virus ORF V1 is associated with secondary plasmodesmata and is first detected with the onset of viral lesions. Virology 220: 51–59.

Donson J , Morris‐Krsinich BAM , Mullineaux PM , Boulton MI and Davies JW (1984) A putative primer for second‐strand DNA synthesis of maize streak virus is virion‐associated. EMBO Journal 3: 3069–3073.

Eagle PA , Orozco BM and Hanley‐Bowdoin L (1994) A DNA sequence required for geminivirus replication also mediates transcriptional regulation. Plant Cell 6: 1157–1170.

Fauquet C and Fargette D (1990) African cassava mosaic virus: etiology, epidemiology, and control. Plant Disease 74: 404–411.

Fenoll C , Schwarz JJ , Black DM , Schneider M and Howell SH (1990) The intergenic region of maize streak virus contains a GC‐rich element that activates rightward transcription and binds maize nuclear factors. Plant Molecular Biology 15: 865–877.

Fontes EPB , Eagle PA , Sipe PA , Luckow VA and Hanley‐Bowdoin L (1994) Interaction between a geminivirus replication protein and origin DNA is essential for viral replication. Journal of Biological Chemistry 269: 8459–8465.

Frischmuth S , Frischmuth T , Latham JR and Stanley J (1993) Transcriptional analysis of the virion‐sense genes of the geminivirus beet curly top virus. Virology 197: 312–319.

Harrison BD , Barker H , Bock KR , et al. (1977) Plant viruses with circular single‐stranded DNA. Nature 270: 761–762.

Hatta T and Francki RIB (1979) The fine structure of chloris striate mosaic virus. Virology 92: 428–435.

Hayes RJ , Coutts RHA and Buck KW (1989) Stability and expression of bacterial genes in replicating geminivirus vectors in plants. Nucleic Acids Research 7: 2391–2403.

Jeske H , Lütgemeier M and Preiß W (2001) DNA forms indicate rolling circle and recombination‐dependent replication of Abutilon mosaic virus. EMBO Journal 20: 6158–6167.

Kjemtrup S , Sampson KS , Peele CG , et al. (1998) Gene silencing from plant DNA carried by a geminivirus. Plant Journal 14: 91–100.

Kong L‐J and Hanley‐Bowdoin L (2002) A geminivirus replication protein interacts with a protein kinase and a motor protein that display different expression patterns during plant development and infection. Plant Cell 14: 1817–1832.

Kumar J , Kumar J , Singh SP , et al. (2014) Association of satellites with a mastrevirus in natural infection: complexity of Wheat dwarf India virus disease. Journal of Virology 88: 7093–7104.

Laufs J , Traut W , Heyraud F , et al. (1995) In vitro cleavage and joining at the viral origin of replication by the replication initiator protein of tomato yellow leaf curl virus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 92: 3879–3883.

Liu H , Boulton MI , Oparka KJ and Davies JW (2000) Interaction of the movement and coat proteins of Maize streak virus: implications for the transport of viral DNA. Journal of General Virology 82: 35–44.

Luque A , Sanz‐Burgos AP , Ramirez‐Parra E , Castellano MM and Gutierrez C (2002) Interaction of geminivirus Rep protein with replication factor C and its potential role during geminivirus DNA replication. Virology 302: 83–94.

Mansoor S , Khan SH , Bashir A , et al. (1999) Identification of a novel circular single‐stranded DNA associated with cotton leaf curl disease in Pakistan. Virology 259: 190–199.

Mariano AC , Andrade MO , Santos AA , et al. (2004) Identification of a novel receptor‐like protein kinase that interacts with a geminivirus nuclear shuttle protein. Virology 318: 24–31.

Nagar S , Pedersen TJ , Carrick KM , Hanley‐Bowdoin L and Robertson D (1995) A geminivirus induces expression of a host DNA synthesis protein in terminally differentiated plant cells. Plant Cell 7: 705–719.

Pilartz M and Jeske H (2003) Mapping of abutilon mosaic geminivirus minichromosomes. Journal of Virology 77: 10808–10818.

Piroux N , Saunders K , Page A and Stanley J (2007) Geminivirus pathogenicity protein C4 interacts with Arabidopsis thaliana shaggy‐related protein kinase AtSKZ, a component of the brassinosteroid signalling pathway. Virology 362: 428–440.

Polston JE , De Barro P and Boykin LM (2014) Transmission specificities of plant viruses with the newly identified species of the Bemisia tabaci species complex. Pest Management Science 70: 1547–1552.

Reyes MI , Nash TE , Dallas MM , et al. (2013) Peptide aptamers that bind to geminivirus replication proteins confer a resistance phenotype to TYLCV and ToMoV infection in tomato. Journal of Virology 87: 9691–9706.

Rose DJW (1978) Epidemiology of maize streak disease. Annual Review of Entomology 23: 259–282.

Saunders K , Bedford ID , Briddon RW , et al. (2000) A unique virus complex causes Ageratum yellow vein disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 97: 6890–6895.

Saunders K , Lucy A and Stanley J (1991) DNA forms of the geminivirus African cassava mosaic virus consistent with a rolling circle mechanism of replication. Nucleic Acids Research 19: 2325–2330.

Saunders K , Lucy A and Stanley J (1992) RNA‐primed complementary‐sense DNA synthesis of the geminivirus African cassava mosaic virus. Nucleic Acids Research 20: 6311–6315.

Saunders K , Norman A , Gucciardo S and Stanley J (2004) The DNA β satellite component associated with ageratum yellow vein disease encodes an essential pathogenicity protein (βC1). Virology 324: 37–47.

Settlage SB , See RG and Hanley‐Bowdoin L (2005) Geminivirus C3 protein: replication enhancement and protein interactions. Journal of Virology 79: 9885–9895.

Shepherd DN , Dugdale B , Martin DP , et al. (2014) Inducible resistance to maize streak virus. PLoS One 9: e105932.

Shivaprasad PV , Akbergenov R , Trinks D , et al. (2005) Promoters, transcripts, and regulatory proteins of mung bean yellow mosaic geminivirus. Journal of Virology 79: 8149–8163.

Sunter G and Bisaro D (1997) Regulation of a geminivirus coat protein promoter by AL2 protein (TrAP): evidence for activation and derepession mechanisms. Virology 232: 269–280.

Sunter G , Gardiner WE and Bisaro DM (1989) Identification of tomato golden mosaic virus‐specific RNAs in infected plants. Virology 195: 275–280.

Townsend R , Stanley J , Curson SJ and Short MN (1985) Major polyadenylated transcripts of cassava latent virus and location of the gene encoding coat protein. EMBO Journal 4: 33–37.

Vanitharani R , Chellappan P , Pita JS and Fauquet CM (2004) Differential roles of AC2 and AC4 of cassava geminiviruses in mediating synergism and suppression of posttranscriptional gene silencing. Journal of Virology 78: 9487–9498.

Verlaan MG , Hutton SF , Ibrahem RM , et al. (2013) The tomato yellow leaf curl virus resistance genes Ty‐1 and Ty‐3 are allelic and code for DFDGD‐class RNA–dependent RNA polymerases. PLoS Genetics 9: e1003399.

Wang H , Buckley KJ , Yang X , Buchmann RC and Bisaro DM (2005) Adenosine kinase inhibition and suppression of RNA silencing by geminivirus AL2 and L2 proteins. Journal of Virology 79: 7410–7418.

Ward BM , Medville R , Lazarowitz SG and Turgeon R (1997) The geminivirus BL1 movement protein is associated with endoplasmic reticulum‐derived tubules in developing phloem cells. Journal of Virology 71: 3726–3733.

Wright EA , Heckel T , Groenendijk J , Davies JW and Boulton MI (1997) Splicing features in maize streak virus virion‐ and complementary‐sense gene expression. Plant Journal 12: 1285–1297.

Xie Q , Suárez‐López P and Gutiérrez C (1995) Identification and analysis of a retinoblastoma binding motif in the replication protein of a plant DNA virus: requirement for efficient viral DNA replication. EMBO Journal 14: 4073–4082.

Yang X , Xie Y , Raja P , et al. (2011) Suppression of methylation‐mediated transcriptional gene silencing by βC1‐SAHH protein interaction during geminivirus‐betasatellite infection. PLoS Pathogens 7: e1002329.

Zhang W , Olson NH , Baker TS , et al. (2001) Structure of the maize streak virus geminate particle. Virology 279: 471–477.

Further Reading

Bisaro DM (2006) Silencing suppression by geminivirus proteins. Virology 344: 158–168.

De Barro PJ , Liu S‐S , Boykin LM and Dinsdale AB (2011) Bemisia tabaci: a statement of species status. Annual Review of Entomology 56: 1–19.

Hanley‐Bowdoin L , Settlage SB and Robertson D (2004) Reprogramming plant gene expression: a prerequisite to geminivirus DNA replication. Molecular Plant Pathology 5: 149–156.

Hanley‐Bowdoin L , Settlage SB , Orozco BM , Nagar S and Robertson D (1999) Geminiviruses: models for plant DNA replication, transcription, and cell cycle regulation. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 18: 71–106.

Palmer KE and Rybicki EP (1997) The use of geminiviruses in biotechnology and plant molecular biology, with particular focus on mastreviruses. Plant Science 129: 115–130.

Rojas MR , Hagen C , Lucas WJ and Gilbertson RL (2005) Exploiting chinks in the plant's armor: evolution and emergence of geminiviruses. Annual Review of Phytopathology 43: 361–394.

Sera T (2005) Inhibition of virus DNA replication by artificial zinc finger proteins. Journal of Virology 79: 2614–2619.

Vanderschuren H , Stupak M , Fütterer J , Gruissem W and Zhang P (2007) Engineering resistance to geminiviruses – review and perspectives. Plant Biotechnology Journal 5: 207–220.

Varsani A , Shepherd DN , Monjane AL , et al. (2008) Recombination, decreased host specificity and increased mobility may have driven the emergence of maize streak virus as an agricultural pathogen. Journal of General Virology 89: 2063–2074.

Zhou X (2013) Advances in understanding begomovirus satellites. Annual Review of Phytopathology 51: 357–381.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Briddon, Rob W(Mar 2015) Geminiviridae. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000750.pub3]