Marine Science Faculty Publications

Molecular Surveillance of Plant Viruses: Identification of New and Emerging Viruses of Tomato Before They Cause Epidemics

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begomoviruses, whiteflies, Bemisia tabaci

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Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a crop with a large number of viral pathogens (estimated at 136 in 2010). Therefore it is not surprising that viruses of tomato continue to emerge, either as new pathogens or as known pathogens that have appeared in new areas or have increased in incidence. Emerging viruses of tomato are found in a diverse array of genera: Annulavirus, Begomovirus, Crinivirus, Potexvirus, Tospovirus, Torradovirus. Three of these 6 genera contain viruses transmitted by the species complex Bemisia tabaci. In addition, viruses in the Carlavirus and Ipomovirus genera, some of which are transmitted by B. tabaci and infect other vegetable crops, are also potential sources of new viruses for tomato. Rapid detection and recognition of these new viruses can improve our management stratagies and mitigate losses. But how can we improve our response to these new threats? One approach is to survey an area and look for sequences of new viruses in a plant feeding insect; such molecular surveillance has been accomplished at two sites in Florida. Adults of B. tabaci, which are highly polyphagous and mobile, were collected and viruses were purified from them. Using deep sequencing, partial sequences of the nucleic acids from the purified viruses were obtained. A wide range of viruses, both RNA and DNA, were found. We identified partial sequences of known viruses, viruses known in other locations but new to Florida and completely new and uncharacterized viruses. Some but not all the viruses detected are transmitted by B. tabaci. For selected sequences, we used the partial sequences and primer walking to obtain complete viral genomes. Viral specific primers were then developed and used for detection and for further biological studies. These results demonstrate that molecular surveillance using metagenomic techniques is a powerful approach to identifying viruses before they emerge in epidemics.

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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1069: IV International Symposium on Tomato Diseases, p. 127-131