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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Historical overview of research on the tobacco mosaic virus genome: genome organization, infectivity and gene manipulation.

Early in the development of molecular biology, TMV RNA was widely used as a mRNA [corrected] that could be purified easily, and it contributed much to research on protein synthesis. Also, in the early stages of elucidation of the genetic code, artificially produced TMV mutants were widely used and provided the first proof that the genetic code was non-overlapping. In 1982, Goelet et al. determined the complete TMV RNA base sequence of 6395 nucleotides. The four genes (130K, 180K, 30K and coat protein) could then be mapped at precise locations in the TMV genome. Furthermore it had become clear, a little earlier, that genes located internally in the genome were expressed via subgenomic mRNAs. The initiation site for assembly of TMV particles was also determined. However, although TMV contributed so much at the beginning of the development of molecular biology, its influence was replaced by that of Escherichia coli and its phages in the next phase. As recombinant DNA technology developed in the 1980s, RNA virus research became more detached from the frontier of molecular biology. To recover from this setback, a gene-manipulation system was needed for RNA viruses. In 1986, two such systems were developed for TMV, using full-length cDNA clones, by Dawson's group and by Okada's group. Thus, reverse genetics could be used to elucidate the basic functions of all proteins encoded by the TMV genome. Identification of the function of the 30K protein was especially important because it was the first evidence that a plant virus possesses a cell-to-cell movement function. Many other plant viruses have since been found to encode comparable 'movement proteins'. TMV thus became the first plant virus for which structures and functions were known for all its genes. At the birth of molecular plant pathology, TMV became a leader again. TMV has also played pioneering roles in many other fields. TMV was the first virus for which the amino acid sequence of the coat protein was determined and first virus for which cotranslational disassembly was demonstrated both in vivo and in vitro. It was the first virus for which activation of a resistance gene in a host plant was related to the molecular specificity of a product of a viral gene. Also, in the field of plant biotechnology, TMV vectors are among the most promising. Thus, for the 100 years since Beijerinck's work, TMV research has consistently played a leading role in opening up new areas of study, not only in plant pathology, but also in virology, biochemistry, molecular biology, RNA genetics and biotechnology.[1]


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