Viroids and viroid diseases
Viroids are the smallest infectious agents known so far. Consisting of a small circular RNA, they may cause severe diseases to economically relevant crops (tomato, potato, peach, citrus, etc.). In contrast to viruses, viroids do not code for any protein. Therefore, the infectious process relies on the presence of structural domains in the viroid RNAs allowing them to interact directly with host factors. This feature makes viroids useful implements for getting deeper insights into the structural-functional relationships of both foreign and host RNAs.
In our laboratory, we develop multidisciplinary researches – also based on next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies – addressed to further characterize molecular bases underlying plant-viroid interaction, with major interest in unveiling the role of RNA silencing in viroid trafficking and pathogenesis and the epigenetic effects of viroid infections in the host genome.
From an applied point of view, we focus on molecular and biological characterization viroids causing diseases in fruit trees, grapevine, vegetables and ornamental plants, on development of fast and reliable detection methods, and on the identification of control strategies of viroid diseases. In the last years we extended our activity to the identification of the new viruses and viroid-like RNAs by NGS, and to their biological and molecular characterization.