Exploiting chinks in the plant's armor: evolution and emergence of geminiviruses

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2005;43:361-94. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.43.040204.135939.


The majority of plant-infecting viruses utilize an RNA genome, suggesting that plants have imposed strict constraints on the evolution of DNA viruses. The geminiviruses represent a family of DNA viruses that has circumvented these impediments to emerge as one of the most successful viral pathogens, causing severe economic losses to agricultural production worldwide. The genetic diversity reflected in present-day geminiviruses provides important insights into the evolution and biology of these pathogens. To maximize replication of their DNA genome, these viruses acquired and evolved mechanisms to manipulate the plant cell cycle machinery for DNA replication, and to optimize the number of cells available for infection. In addition, several strategies for cell-to-cell and long-distance movement of the infectious viral DNA were evolved and refined to be compatible with the constraints imposed by the host endogenous macromolecular trafficking machinery. Mechanisms also evolved to circumvent the host antiviral defense systems. Effectively combatting diseases caused by geminiviruses represents a major challenge and opportunity for biotechnology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Geminiviridae / classification
  • Geminiviridae / genetics
  • Geminiviridae / physiology*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Plant Diseases / virology*
  • Plants / virology*