Group leader: Fernando Ponz Ascaso - Research Professor INIA

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Viruses offer a myriad of opportunities to be targets or tools of plant biotechnology. In our research group we focus our work on two main ones.

As particle-forming biological entities, the viral capsids can be regarded as true viral nanoparticles (VNPs). This view allows the deployment of viruses as objects for nanobiotechnological developments. An extension of this view takes advantage of the replicative properties of viruses, leading to their utilization as vectors for transient expression of foreign proteins in plants.

As intracellular pathogens, viruses interact with plant components to perform infection. These interactions often lead to host physiological or developmental alterations, yet they have the built-in advantage of being a useful lead to understanding and potentially modifying both the interaction itself, and plant physiology or development with different purposes.



Theranostic tools

We use functionalized Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) for theranostics purposes. Some of the applications include functionalizations with peptides, antibodies, enzymes, plant natural products and chemicals.

These functionalized VNPs are used to boost immunization, the ultrasensitive detection of antibodies and autoantibodies, antimicrobials or antitumorals.

Structure-based design of VNPs


We have solved the structure of TuMV, both virions and virus-like particles, using cryoelectron microscopy. The solved structure guides our designs.

Viral molecular farming


We converted TuMV into vectors for transient expression of proteins in plant species which are hosts of the virus. Many proteins of different origins have been produced.



Virus infections and plant development


We uncovered the impact of the development of a flower stalk in TuMV-infected Arabidopsis (and other) plants. The detailed characterization of this interconnection is shedding light on the molecular details of a process susceptible of biotechnological exploitation.

Viral determinants of pathogenicity

Viral chimeras made through the inter-strain interchange of viral genomic segments allow the identification of viral determinants of pathogenicity

We have identified several pathogenicity determinants of specific viral diseases, and continue to do so, especially in connection with their influence on plant development.

Representative Publications

López-González, S., Gómez-Mena, C., Sánchez, F., Schuetz, M., Lacey Samuels, A., Ponz, F. 2021. The Effects of Turnip Mosaic Virus Infections on the Deposition of Secondary Cell Walls and Developmental Defects in Arabidopsis Plants Are Virus-Strain Specific. Frontiers in Plant Science 12, 2221. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.741050

Williams, L., Jurado, S., Llorente, F., Romualdo, A., González, S., Saconne, A., Bronchalo, I., Martínez-Cortes, M., Pérez-Gómez, B., Ponz, F., Jiménez-Clavero, M.Á., Lunello, P. 2021. The C-Terminal Half of SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Protein, Industrially Produced in Plants, Is Valid as Antigen in COVID-19 Serological Tests. Frontiers in Plant Science. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.699665

Toribio, R., Muñoz, A.,Sánchez, F., Ponz, F., Castellano, M.M. 2021. High overexpression of CERES, a plant regulator of translation, induces different phenotypical defense responses during TuMV infection. The Plant Journal. DOI:

Frías-Sánchez, A.I., Quevedo-Moreno, D.A., Samandari, M., Negrete, J.A.T., Sánchez-Rodríguez, V.H., González-Gamboa, I., Ponz, F., Alvarez, M.M., Santiago, G.T. de 2021. Biofabrication of muscle fibers enhanced with plant viral nanoparticles using surface chaotic flows. Biofabrication. DOI: 10.1088/1758-5090/abd9d7

López‐González, S., Navarro, J.A., Pacios, L.F., Sardaru, P., Pallás, V., Sánchez, F., Ponz, F. 2020. Association between flower stalk elongation, an Arabidopsis developmental trait, and the subcellular location and movement dynamics of the nonstructural protein P3 of Turnip mosaic virus. Molecular Plant Pathology. DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12976

Yuste-Calvo, C., Ibort, P., Sánchez, F., Ponz, F. 2020. Turnip Mosaic Virus Coat Protein Deletion Mutants Allow Defining Dispensable Protein Domains for ‘in Planta’ eVLP Formation. Viruses 12, 661. DOI: 10.3390/v12060661

Velázquez-Lam, E., Imperial, J., Ponz, F. 2020. Polyphenol-Functionalized Plant Viral-Derived Nanoparticles Exhibit Strong Antimicrobial and Antibiofilm Formation Activities. ACS Applied Bio Materials. DOI: 10.1021/acsabm.9b01161

Cuesta, R., Yuste-Calvo, C., Gil-Cartón, D., Sánchez, F., Ponz, F., Valle, M. 2019. Structure of Turnip mosaic virus and its viral-like particles. Scientific Reports 9, 1–6. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51823-4

Yuste-Calvo, C., López-Santalla, M., Zurita, L., Cruz-Fernández, C.F., Sánchez, F., Garín, M.I., Ponz, F. 2019. Elongated Flexuous Plant Virus-Derived Nanoparticles Functionalized for Autoantibody Detection. Nanomaterials 9, 1438. DOI: 10.3390/nano9101438

Yuste-Calvo, C., González-Gamboa, I., Pacios, L.F., Sánchez, F., Ponz, F. 2019. Structure-Based Multifunctionalization of Flexuous Elongated Viral Nanoparticles. ACS Omega 4, 5019–5028. DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.8b02760

Sánchez, F; Ponz, F. 2018. "Presenting peptides at the surface of potyviruses in planta", p. 471-485. In C. Wege and G. P. Lomonossoff (eds.), Virus-Derived Nanoparticles for Advanced Technologies: Methods and Protocols. Springer New York, New York, NY. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7808-3_31".

Sardaru, P; Sinausía, L; López-González, S; Zindovic, J; Sánchez, F; Ponz, F. 2018. "The apparent non-host resistance of Ethiopian mustard to a radish-infecting strain of Turnip mosaic virus is largely determined by the C-terminal region of the P3 viral protein". Molecular Plant Pathology. DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12674".

Sánchez, F; Ponz, F. 2018. "Viruses and Plant Development", p. 267-278. In R. Gaur, S. Khurana, and Y. Dorokhov (eds.), Plant Viruses. Diversity, Interaction and Management. CRC Press, Boca Raton. ISBN: 9781138061514 - CAT# K33333.

Vijayan, V; López-González, S; Sánchez, F; Ponz, F; Pagán, I. 2017. "Virulence evolution of a sterilizing plant virus: Tuning multiplication and resource exploitation". Virus Evolution. DOI: 10.1093/ve/vex033".

González-Gamboa, I; Manrique, P; Sánchez, F; Ponz, F. 2017. "Plant-made potyvirus-like particles used for log-increasing antibody sensing capacity". Journal of Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2017.06.014".

López-González, S; Aragonés, V; Daròs, J-A; Sánchez, F; Ponz, F. 2016. "An infectious cDNA clone of a radish-infecting Turnip mosaic virus strain". European Journal of Plant Pathology. DOI: 10.1007/s10658-016-1057-9".

Duval, F; Cruz-Vega, DE; González-Gamboa, I; González-Garza, MT; Ponz, F; Sánchez, F; Alarcon-Galvan, G; Moreno-Cuevas, JE. 2016. "Detection of autoantibodies to vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 in bile duct ligated rats and correlations with a panel of traditional markers of liver diseases". Disease Markers. DOI: 10.1155/2016/6597970".

Cuenca, S; Mansilla, C; Aguado, M; Yuste-Calvo, C; Sánchez, F; Sánchez-Montero, JM; Ponz, F. 2016. "Nanonets derived from turnip mosaic virus as scaffolds for increased enzymatic activity of immobilized Candida antarctica lipase B". Frontiers in Plant Science. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00464".

Sánchez, F; Manrique, P; Mansilla, C; Lunello, P; Wang, X; Rodrigo, G; López-González, S; Jenner, C; González-Melendi, P; Elena, SF; Walsh, J; Ponz, F. 2015. "Viral strain-specific differential alterations in Arabidopsis developmental patterns". Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-05-15-0111-R".

Manacorda, CA; Mansilla, C; Debat, H; Zavallo, D; Sánchez, F; Ponz, F; Asurmendi, S. 2013. "Salicylic acid determines differential senescence produced by two Turnip mosaic virus strains involving reactive oxygen species and early transcriptomic changes". Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. DOI: 10.1094/mpmi-07-13-0190-r".

Sánchez, F; Saéz, M; Lunello, P; Ponz, F. 2013. "Plant viral elongated nanoparticles modified for log-increases of foreign peptide immunogenicity and specific antibody detection". Journal of Biotechnology. DOI:".