Satellite RNAs of plant viruses: Structures and biological effects

Marilyn J. Roossinck, David Sleat, Peter Palukaitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Plant viruses often contain parasites of their own, referred to as satellites. Satellite RNAs are dependent on their associated (helper) virus for both replication and encapsidation. Satellite RNAs vary from 194 to ~1,500 nucleotides (nt). The larger satellites (900 to 1,500 nt) contain open reading frames and express proteins in vitro and in vivo, whereas the smaller satellites (194 to 700 nt) do not appear to produce functional proteins. The smaller satellites contain a high degree of secondary structure involving 49 to 73% of their sequences, with the circular satellites containing more base pairing than the linear satellites. Many of the smaller satellites produce multimeric forms during replication. There are various models to account for their formation and role in satellite replication. Some of these smaller satellites encode ribozymes and are able to undergo autocatalytic cleavage. The enzymology of satellite replication is poorly understood, as is the replication of their helper viruses. In many cases the coreplication of satellites suppresses the replication of the helper virus genome. This is usually paralleled by a reduction in the disease induced by the helper virus; however, there are notable exceptions in which the satellite exacerbates the pathogenicity of the helper virus, albeit on only a limited number of hosts. The ameliorative satellites are being assessed as biocontrol agents of virus-induced disease. In greenhouse studies, satellites have been known to 'spontaneously' appear in virus cultures. The possible origin of satellites will be briefly considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-279
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobiological Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Satellite RNAs of plant viruses: Structures and biological effects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this