Viroids: structure and function

Science  31 Aug 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4409, pp. 859-866
DOI: 10.1126/science.472709


Viroids are nucleic acid species of relatively low molecular weight and unique structure that cause several important diseases of cultivated plants. Similar nucleic acid species may be responsible for certain diseases of animals and humans. Viroids are the smallest known agents of infectious disease. Unlike viral nucleic acids, viroids are not encapsidated. Despite their small size, viroids replicate autonomously in cells of susceptible plant species. Known viroids are single-stranded, covalently closed circular, as well as linear, RNA molecules with extensive regions of intramolecular complementarity; they exist in their native state as highly base-paired rods.