viroid Any of various small naked single-stranded RNA molecules that infect plant cells and cause disease. Smaller than viruses, viroids are not enclosed in a protein coat of any kind: they generally consist of less than 400 nucleotides and do not contain any genes. The circular RNA strand undergoes extensive base pairing within itself, forming a double-stranded structure that mimics DNA and is apparently replicated by the host cell's enzymes. This behaviour is similar to that of certain introns, prompting the suggestion that viroids are escaped introns. Viroids include many commercially important disease agents, such as coconut cadang-cadang, citrus exocortis, and potato spindle tuber viroid.
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