Plant Resistance to Infection by Viruses


Among the most devastating pathogens, plant viruses are responsible for considerable losses of most agronomically important crops in the fields. The development and use of cultivars that are genetically resistant to viruses is an efficient strategy to tackle the problems associated with virus diseases. Recently, important advances have been made in our understanding of the molecular nature and mechanisms associated with natural recessive and dominant resistance genes, as well as in the antiviral defence system based on ribonucleic acids, referred to as RNA silencing. In this review, the authors summarise current knowledge about the defence mechanisms that prevent or limit viral infection in plants and discuss the likely collaboration of these different antiviral strategies insuring the resistance of the whole plant.

Key Concepts:

  • A vast number of natural recessive resistances to plant viruses encode translational factors that are fully required for infection success.

  • Most of plant antiviral R genes encode NBS‐LRR proteins that mediate resistance through the specific (direct or indirect) recognition of a virus avirulence factor.

  • Plant hormone balance participates actively to plant virus resistance and can be modulated by viruses.

  • The mechanisms of RNA silencing (or RNA interference) target virus multiplication at the nucleic acid level.

  • Plant immunity against viruses results from a highly efficient build‐up of all resistance mechanisms.

Keywords: plant resistance; recessive and dominant resistances; R genes; plant hormones; RNA silencing; innate immunity

Figure 1.

Plant immunity against viruses: one for all and all for one. To complete their infectious cycle in plants, viruses rely mainly on the host cellular machinery, concept illustrated so far by the plethora of natural recessive resistances encoding translation factors. In a complementary manner, a set of active defence mechanisms ensure a highly robust plant immune system, effective at different steps of plant colonisation: (a) during the early infection events in the first infected cell, (b) during the cell‐to‐cell movement of viral particles and (c) during the systemic infection of the whole organism. Altogether, the combination of effective passive and active resistances might explain why most plants are resistant to most viruses.



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Further Reading

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Voinnet O (2005) Induction and suppression of RNA silencing: insights from viral infections. Nature Reviews Genetics 6: 206–220.

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Revers, Frédéric, and Nicaise, Valérie(Aug 2014) Plant Resistance to Infection by Viruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000757.pub3]