Expression of the tobacco mosaic virus 30-kD movement protein (TMV MP) gene in tobacco plants increases the plasmodesmatal size exclusion limit (SEL) 10-fold between mesophyll cells in mature leaves. In the present study, we examined the structure of plasmodesmata as a function of leaf development. In young leaves of 30-kD TMV MP transgenic (line 274) and vector control (line 306) plants, almost all plasmodesmata were primary in nature. In both plant lines, secondary plasmodesmata were formed, in a basipetal pattern, as the leaves underwent expansion growth. Ultrastructural and immunolabeling studies demonstrated that in line 274 the TMV MP accumulated predominantly in secondary plasmodesmata of nonvascular tissues and was associated with a filamentous material. A developmental progression was detected in terms of the presence of TMV MP; all secondary plasmodesmata in the tip of the fourth leaf contained TMV MP in association with the filamentous material. Dye-coupling experiments demonstrated that the TMV MP-induced increase in plasmodesmatal SEL could be routinely detected in the tip of the fourth leaf, but was restricted to mesophyll and bundle sheath cells. These findings are discussed with respect to the structure and function of plasmodesmata, particularly those aspects related to virus movement.