There are two bacilliform, rhabdo-like viruses that cause citrus leprosis: Citrus leprosis virus C (CiLV-C), which accumulates in the cytoplasm of infected cells, and Citrus leprosis virus nuclear type (CiLV-N), which accumulates in their nucleus. The first one, the prototype of the new genus Cilevirus, is prevalent and occurs in several countries of the American continent, from Argentina to Mexico (1). The second type, still a tentative member of the Rhabdoviridae family, is of rare occurrence, with a few reports in Brazil and one in Panama (1). Leprosis is particularly important to the Brazilian citrus industry because of the 60 to 80 million dollars spent yearly for the control of Brevipalpus phoenicis (Geijskes, 1939) (Acari: Tenuipalpidae), the vector of the virus (1). For decades, the disease was considered unique to citrus plants; however, greenhouse experiments conducted in the 1990s demonstrated the mechanical transmission of CiLV-C to noncitrus plants (1). Years later, researchers were able to transmit the virus to nonrutaceous hosts using viruliferous mites (1,4). Recently, León et al. (2) reported the occurrence of the first noncitrus plant naturally infected by CiLV-C, the rutaceous Swinglea glutinosa Blanco (Merr.). Tropical spiderworts (Commelina benghalensis L.; Commelinaceae) are monocot weeds commonly found in citrus orchards in Brazil. In a survey conducted in orchards with high incidences of leprosis in the municipalities of Borborema and São José do Rio Preto, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil, tropical spiderworts were found exhibiting necrotic spots with a yellow halo in green leaves and green spots with necrotic center in senescent leaves. Since these symptoms are similar to those caused by CiLV-C in citrus, symptomatic plants were collected and subjected to transmission electron microscopy analyses and reverse transcription-PCR using primers that specifically amplify a region within the putative movement protein gene of the virus (3). Bacilliform virus particles and typical inclusions were seen in the lesions. Bands of the expected 344 bp size were seen in agarose gels of symptomatic samples only. The analysis of the consensus sequence showed 100% identity with CiLV-C sequence available in the GenBank (Accession No. YP_654542.1). Experimental transmission of CiLV-C by B. phoenicis reproduced the lesions in inoculated tropical spiderwort. Also, the virus could be easily transmitted back from C. benghalensis to sweet orange plants. Our data show that this widespread weed is the first monocot as a natural host for CiLV-C. Since tropical spiderwort is a host for B. phoenicis and symptomatic plants were found in two municipalities 130 km apart from each other, it is possible that this weed may serve as reservoir for the virus and play a relevant role in the spread of the disease in the field, but this issue still needs to be addressed in further experiments.
References: (1) M. A. Bastianel et al. Plant Dis. 94:284, 2010. (2) M. G. A. Leon et al. Plant Dis. 90:682, 2008. (3) E. C. Locali-Fabris et al. Plant Dis. 87:1317. (4) M. A. Nunes et al. Plant Dis. Online publication. doi:10.1094/PDIS-06-11-0538, 2011.