Letter | Published:

Minor differences between nucleotide sequences of mild and severe strains of potato spindle tuber viroid

Naturevolume 277pages6062 (1979) | Download Citation



VIROIDS are the smallest replicating pathogenic agents known1. Composed entirely of RNA, they have genome sizes in the range of 330–380 nucleotides2, 10 times smaller than the smallest bacteriophage of Escherichia coli3. Although there is no evidence for the existence of a protective protein coat for viroids, they infect a wide variety of plants and in many produce severe disease symptoms1,4. The molecular mechanisms by which viroids replicate and interact with their hosts are not yet understood. In its most severe form, the disease5,6 caused by potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTV) causes general stunting of potato plant growth, deformity of the upper foliage, and production of disfigured potatoes5. Mild strains of PSTV which produce barely detectable symptoms have also been isolated7. Furthermore, plants infected by mild strains are somehow protected from developing symptoms following subsequent inoculation with severe strains8,9. This biological protection phenomenon has been called cross-protection7. As the only known component of viroids is RNA, mild and severe strains must differ in nucleotide sequence. The study described here aimed to determine the extent of this difference.

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    • C. L. NIBLETT

    Present address: Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 66506


  1. The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, 10021

  2. Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853

    • C. L. NIBLETT
    • , R. K. HORST


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