In March 2013, symptoms of mild leaf curling, mosaic, and interveinal yellowing were observed in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plants grown in a row surrounding the exterior of a greenhouse containing a tomato crop in Guía de Isora, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). The tobacco plants were found lightly infested by the whitefly (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) Bemisia tabaci. The greenhouses in this area are devoted to the commercial production of tomato. The farmers grow some tobacco plants inside and outside of them as a reservoir of parasitoids and depredators of B. tabaci. This insect is the natural vector of the main viruses severely affecting tomato in the Canary Islands, the begomovirus Tomato yellow leaf curl virus and the crinivirus Tomato chlorosis virus (ToCV). ToCV was detected in Spain in 1997 (2) and has become established in most of the coastal provinces of eastern and southern continental Spain and in the Canary Islands. Approximately 50% of the tomato plants grown inside the greenhouse close to the tobacco plants showed typical ToCV symptoms, and infection by this virus was confirmed in the seven plants tested by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR using specific coat protein gene (CP) primers (see below). Total RNA was extracted with TRIzol Reagent (Invitrogen) from leaves of five tobacco plants showing the symptoms mentioned above and analyzed by dot-blot hybridization using digoxigenin-labeled RNA probes to the CP gene of ToCV. Positive signal was obtained for all five plants. RT-PCR reactions were performed with specific primers for the detection of ToCV, MA380(+) (5′-GTGAGACCCCGATGACAGAT-3′) and MA381(-) (5′-TACAGTTCCTTGCCCTCGTT-3′), specific to the CP gene (ToCV RNA 2) (3), and MA396(+) (5′-TGGTCGAACAGTTTGAGAGC-3′) and MA397(-) (5′-TGAACTCGAATTGGGACAGA-3′), specific to the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) gene (ToCV RNA 1) (1). DNA fragments of the expected size (436 and 763 bp, respectively) were obtained, thus supporting the presence of ToCV in the symptomatic samples. The amplified product of the RdRp gene fragment from one sample was directly sequenced (Macrogen Inc., South Korea) and resulted closely related to ToCV isolates from Sudan (GenBank Accession No. JN411686, 99.6% nt identity) and Spain (DQ983480, 99.4% nt identity), thereby confirming the infection by this virus. Partial sequence of the ToCV isolate from tobacco was deposited in GenBank under accession no. KJ175084. In addition, all five plants resulted positive when analyzed by ELISA for Tomato spotted wilt virus and Potato virus Y and by PCR for Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (data not shown), all three viruses reported to infect naturally tobacco. Although tobacco has been reported as an experimental host of ToCV (4), to our knowledge, this is the first report of this species as a natural host of this virus. The finding of ToCV infecting tobacco raises the question of whether this virus could emerge as a pathogen of this crop and questions the use that farmers make of tobacco as reservoirs of natural enemies for whitefly control in tomato.
References: (1) G. Lozano et al. J. Virol. 83:12973, 2009. (2) J. Navas-Castillo et al. Plant Dis. 84:835, 2000. (3) H. P. Trenado et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 118:193, 2007 (4) W. M. Wintermantel and G. C. Wisler. Plant Dis. 90:814, 2006.
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