Plant viruses are more similar to animal viruses than they are to bacteriophages. Plant viruses may be enveloped or non-enveloped. Like many animal viruses, plant viruses can have either a DNA or RNA genome and be single stranded or double stranded. However, most plant viruses do not have a DNA genome; the majority have a +ssRNA genome, which acts like messenger RNA (mRNA). Only a minority of plant viruses have other types of genomes.
Plant viruses may have a narrow or broad host range. For example, the citrus tristeza virus infects only a few plants of the Citrus genus, whereas the cucumber mosaic virus infects thousands of plants of various plant families. Most plant viruses are transmitted by contact between plants, or by fungi, nematodes, insects, or other arthropods that act as mechanical vectors. However, some viruses can only be transferred by a specific type of insect vector; for example, a particular virus might be transmitted by aphids but not whiteflies. In some cases, viruses may also enter healthy plants through wounds, as might occur due to pruning or weather damage.
Viruses that infect plants are considered biotrophic parasites, which means that they can establish an infection without killing the host, similar to what is observed in the lysogenic life cycles of bacteriophages. Viral infection can be asymptomatic (latent) or can lead to cell death (lytic infection). The life cycle begins with the penetration of the virus into the host cell. Next, the virus is uncoated within the cytoplasm of the cell when the capsid is removed. Depending on the type of nucleic acid, cellular components are used to replicate the viral genome and synthesize viral proteins for assembly of new virions. To establish a systemic infection, the virus must enter a part of the vascular system of the plant, such as the phloem. The time required for systemic infection may vary from a few days to a few weeks depending on the virus, the plant species, and the environmental conditions. The virus life cycle is complete when it is transmitted from an infected plant to a healthy plant.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology