Yams (Dioscorea spp.) are widely grown in China as vegetables and herbal medicine. However, studies on viral diseases on yams are still limited. As a pilot project of a government initiative for improving yam productivity, a small study was conducted in Guangxi, a southern province of China, on viral disease in yams. Incidence of virus-like disease for the three extensively grown D. alata cultivars, GH2, GH5, and GH6, were 12 to 40%, 12 to 29%, and 11 to 25%, respectively, as found in a field survey with a five-plot sampling method in 2010. A total of 112 leaf samples showing mosaic or mottling or leaves without symptoms were collected from the cvs. GH2, GH5, GH6, and seven additional cultivars (D. alata cvs. GY2, GY23, GY47, GY69, GY62, GY72, and D. batatas cv. Tiegun). To determine if the symptoms were caused by Yam mild mosaic virus (YMMV; genus Potyvirus, family Potyviridae), total RNA was extracted from leaves with a commercial RNA purification kit (TIANGEN, Beijing, China), and reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR was conducted with a YMMV-specific primer pair (4) that amplifies the 3′-terminal portion of the viral genome. A PCR product with the predicted size of 262 bp was obtained from samples of GH5 (number testing positive of total number of leaves = 5 of 12), GH6 (24 of 42), and GY72 (1 of 1), but not from asymptomatic leaves. PCR products from a GH5 sample (YMMV-Nanning) and a GH6 sample (YMMV-Luzhai) were cloned and sequenced using an ABI PRISM 3770 DNA Sequencer. The two PCR products were 97% identical at nucleotide (nt) level and with the highest homology (89% identity) to a YMMV isolate (GenBank Accession No. AJ305466). To further characterize the isolates, degenerate primers (2) were used to amplify viral genome sequence corresponding to the C-terminal region of the nuclear inclusion protein b (NIb) and the N-terminal region of the coat protein (CP). These 781-nt fragments were sequenced and a new primer, YMMV For1 (5′-TTCATGTCGCACAAAGCAGTTAAG-3′) corresponding to the NIb region, was designed and used together with primer YMMV UTR 1R to amplify a fragment that covers the complete CP region of YMMV by RT-PCR. These 1,278-nt fragments were sequenced (GenBank Accession Nos. JF357962 and JF357963). CP nucleotide sequences of the YMMV-Nanning and YMMV-Luzhai isolates were 94% similar, while amino acid sequences were 99% similar. BLAST searches revealed a nucleotide identity of 82 to 89% and a similarity of 88 to 97% for amino acids to sequences of YMMV isolates (AF548499 and AF548519 and AAQ12304 and BAA82070, respectively) in GenBank. YMMV is known to be prevalent on D. alata in Africa and the South Pacific, and has recently been identified in the Caribbean (1) and Colombia (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of the natural occurrence of YMMV in China and it may have implications for yam production and germplasm exchange within China.
References: (1) M. Bousalem and S. Dallot. Plant Dis. 84:200, 2000. (2) D. Colinet et al. Phytopathology 84:65, 1994. (3) S. Dallot et al. Plant Dis. 85:803, 2001. (4) R. A. Mumford and S. E. Seal. J. Virol. Methods 69:73, 1997.
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