Hairy roots were used as an in vitro culture system for the propagation of wild-type and transgenic plant viruses. Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) was added to the liquid culture medium at the same time as root inoculation. Hairy root growth was unaffected by viral infection. Maximum concentrations of TMV in Nicotiana benthamiana hairy roots were 1a??2 orders of magnitude greater than in suspended N. benthamiana cells and reached levels of 1a?? 2 mg g_1 dry weight or 20a??28 total soluble protein. Virus accumulated in the roots initially with a constant doubling time of about 1.0 day; subsequent reductions in viral growth rate were correlated with a significant decline in infectivity relative to the inoculum virus. The morphological integrity of the viral particles was maintained during propagation in hairy roots. The contribution to the overall viral titer of passive association of virus with the biomass, for example, by surface adsorption, was negligible compared with active viral replication. N. benthamiana hairy roots were also infected with a TMV-based viral vector developed to express green fluorescent protein (GFP). This vector was about 260-fold less infectious than wild-type TMV and accumulated much more slowly in the roots. Maximum levels of TMV-GFP in the biomass were about 65-fold lower than for TMV. This work demonstrates that hairy root cultures are a feasible means for in vitro propagation of wild-type and transgenic plant viruses under conditions that allow a high degree of environmental containment and control.