We employ plant viruses as easy-to-use model systems to provide basic understanding of how viruses express genes and replicate. Because of similarities in translation and replication strategies across kingdoms, this knowledge may be relevant to major human viruses such as hepatitis A and C viruses, dengue, West Nile, and others. At a more fundamental level, viruses are fascinating as the smallest, minimal replicating entities. They allow detailed understanding of what it takes to replicate, the essential property that defines life.
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