Tobacco Mosaic Virus

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In this four-part laboratory exercise, learners investigate properties of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) including (1) symptoms induced by the virus in susceptible plants at the macroscopic and microscopic levels, (2) its stability at high temperatures, and (3) its small size. Learners first propagate tomato and pinto bean plants, and then inoculate their dried leaves with TMV. Learners observe the TMV-infected leaves as well as use a heat treatment to inactivate the virus. Learners also filter the infected sap with a bacteria-proof filter to investigate size. This lesson guide includes background information, tips for educators, and discussion questions with answers. Adult supervision is recommended. Note: The Tobacco mosaic virus is available from biological suppliers, but approval for shipping of the virus across state lines must be obtained from the USDA prior to shipment.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 4 weeks

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Viruses and Bacteria
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Ford, Rosemary ; Evans, Tom


  • All rights reserved, The American Phytopathological Society, 2011