Petunias (Petunia × hybrida) are the most important ornamental plants in Oman. In 2012, petunias were observed in public parks and airport landscape in Dhofar region with symptoms of upward leaf curling, yellowing and vein clearing, and size reduction in leaves. Almost all plants in the surveyed landscape showed high infestation of Bemisia tabaci and symptoms that suggested infection with a begomovirus. Six symptomatic samples were collected from three different sites. All symptomatic samples were found PCR-positive with diagnostic primers for begomovirus (3) when DNA extracted from infected leaves was used as template. Nucleic acids extracted from the symptomatic leaves were used to amplify circular DNA molecules by rolling circle amplification method. The amplified concatameric products were digested with restriction enzyme PstI, which yielded a product ∼2.8 kb in size. The putative begomovirus fragment was cloned and sequenced in both orientations. Partial sequences of six clones were 99 to 100% similar and thus only two clones, PT-2 and PT-3, were fully sequenced. The whole genomes of both clones were 2,761 bp, and both were deposited in GenBank under accession numbers HF968755 and HF968756 for the isolates PT-2 and PT-3, respectively. Both sequences had six open reading frames; Rep, TrAP, REn, and C4 genes in complementary sense; and CP and V2 genes in virion-sense, typical of the begomovirus genome organization. Upon alignment, the two sequences showed 99.4% nucleotide identity with each other, thus representing isolates of a single begomovirus species. BlastN comparison showed PT-2 and PT-3 from petunia were 94 to 95% identical to the sequences of ChCLV from Oman (JN604490 to JN604500), which were obtained from other hosts. ClustalV multiple sequence alignment showed that isolates PT-2 and PT-3 shared maximum sequence identity of 93.3 and 92.8%, respectively, with an isolate of ChLCV-OM (JN604495). According to ICTV rules for begomoviruses, PT-3 should be considered to be a new strain of ChLCV-OM and PT-2 a variant of the already existing ChLCV-OM strain. We propose the name for this new strain as the “Petunia strain” of Chili leaf curl virus (ChLCV-Pet). Two infectious clones were constructed from the PT-2 and PT-3 sequences, clones as 1.75-genome sequences in a binary vector, suitable for agroinfection to confirm their infectivity. Both clones, PT-2 and PT-3, produced typical leaf curl disease symptoms upon inoculation on petunia 18 days post inoculation. The presence of the same virus in symptomatic field infected and inoculated petunia was confirmed by Southern blot using 650 bp DIG labeled probe prepared from CP region of PT-3 isolate. ChLCV-OM, a monopartite begomovirus, is widely associated with leaf curl disease of tomato and pepper in Oman, with its origin traced to the Indian subcontinent (2). Identification of a new strain of ChLCV from petunia provides evidence of an ongoing rapid evolution of begomoviruses in this region. Although petunia has been tested as an experimental host for some begomoviruses (1,4), this is the first report of petunia as natural host for ChLCV, a begomovirus previously reported in tomato and pepper in Oman.
References: (1) Cui et al. J. Virol. 78:13966, 2004. (2) Khan et al. Virus Res. 177:87, 2013. (3) Khan et al. Plant Dis. 97:1396, 2013. (4) Urbino et al. Arch. Virol. 149:417, 2003.
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