In September 2008, a survey of whiteflies and whitefly-borne viruses was performed in 11 pepper-growing greenhouses in the province of Cartago, Costa Rica. During this survey, the vast majority of sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum cv. Nataly) plants showed interveinal chlorosis, enations, necrosis, and mild upward leaf curling. Large populations of whiteflies were present and they were found to be composed only of Trialeurodes vaporariorum. Total RNA from frozen plant samples was extracted with TRI Reagent (Molecular Research Inc., Cincinnati, OH). RevertAid H Minus Reverse Transcriptase Kit (Fermentas, Hanover, MD) was used for reverse transcription of the total RNA extract, with cDNA synthesis directed using random primers. A real-time PCR assay was performed to detect Tomato chlorosis virus (ToCV) (genus Crinivirus, family Closteroviridae) using the SYBR Green PCR Master Mix (Applied Biosystems, Carlsbad, CA). Three sets of primers were used to confirm the presence of ToCV in the samples: TocQ875F/TocQ998R primer set directed to a fragment of 123 bp of the HSP gene (3); ToCVp22RQF (5′-TGGATCTCACTGGTTGCTTG-3′)-ToCVp22RQR (5′-TAGTGTTTCAGCGCCAACAG-3′) primer pair that amplifies a 198-bp segment of the ToCV p22 gene (R. Hammond, E. Hernandez, J. Guevara, J. A. Vargas, A. Solorzano, R. Castro, N. Barboza, F. Mora, and P. Ramirez, unpublished) and the ToCVCPmRQF (5′-CATTGGTTGGGGATTACGTC-3′)-ToCVCPmRQR (5′-TCTCAGCCTTGACTTGAGCA-3′) primer pair designed to amplify a 170-bp portion of the ToCV CPm gene (R. Hammond, E. Hernandez, J. Guevara, J. A. Vargas, A. Solorzano, R. Castro, N. Barboza, F. Mora and P. Ramirez, unpublished). Fifteen symptomatic samples per greenhouse were tested for a total of 165 sweet pepper plants. From this total, seven samples from four different greenhouses produced amplification of PCR products with all three sets of primers. One of the seven samples showed mild chlorosis, but others were highly chlorotic with different levels of upward leaf curling. None of the other samples showed amplification with any of the primer sets; the symptoms on these plants could have been due to nutritional deficiencies or infection by viruses. Sequence analysis of the 460-bp HSP PCR products, produced using previously reported primers (3), and 150-bp fragment of the P22 revealed 100% sequence identity with a tomato isolate of ToCV from the United States (GenBank Accession No. AY903448). Because of the low number of samples infected with ToCV and the high incidence of symptoms, DNA extraction and a begomovirus PCR detection assay was performed using primer pair AV494/AC1048 (4). Negative results were obtained for all samples. To our knowledge, this is the first report of ToCV infecting sweet pepper plants in Costa Rica and the third one worldwide. ToCV has also been found to be infecting tomato in open field and greenhouses (1) and other weeds in greenhouses including Ruta chalepensis (Rutaceae), Phytolacca icosandra (Phytolaccaceae), Plantago major (Plantaginaceae), and Brassica sp. (Brassicaceae) (2) in the same region of Costa Rica, suggesting that it has adapted to the conditions of the area and poses an important threat to the vegetable production.
References: (1) R. M. Castro et al. Plant Dis. 93:970, 2009. (2) A. Solorzano-Morales et al. Plant Dis. 95:497, 2011. (3) W. M. Wintermantel et al. Phytopathology 98:1340, 2008. (4) S. Wyatt and J. Brown. Phytopathology 86:1288, 1996.