Scotch bonnet (Capsicum chinense) is a tropical hot pepper variety that is grown in South America, the Caribbean Islands, and in Florida, and is an important cash crop. In Florida, scotch bonnet is grown on ~100 acres annually. Virus-like leaf symptoms including mosaic and yellow mottling were observed on scotch bonnet plants in a field at Quincy, FL, with a disease incidence of ~5%. Two symptomatic and one non-symptomatic plant sample were collected from this field for identification of the causal agent associated with the symptoms. Viral inclusion assays (2) of the epidermal tissues of the symptomatic scotch bonnet samples using Azure A stain indicated the presence of spherical aggregates of crystalline inclusion bodies. Testing of the symptomatic samples using lateral flow immunoassays (Immunostrips, Agdia, Elkhart, IN) specific to Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), Potato virus Y (PVY), Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), Zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV), and Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), showed a positive reaction only to CMV. The sap from an infected leaf sample ground in 0.01 M Sorensons phosphate buffer (pH 7.0) was used to mechanically inoculate one healthy scotch bonnet plant (tested negative for CMV with Immunostrip) at the 2- to 3-leaf stage. The inoculated plant developed mild mosaic and mottling symptoms 12 to 14 days post inoculation. The presence of CMV in the mechanically inoculated plant was further verified using CMV Immunostrips. Total RNA was extracted (RNeasy Plant Mini Kit, Qiagen, Valencia, CA) from the previously collected two symptomatic and one non-symptomatic scotch bonnet samples. The samples were subjected to reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR assays using SuperScript III One-Step RT-PCR System (Invitrogen, Life Technologies, Grand Island, NY), and using multiplex RT-PCR primer sets (1). The primers were designed to differentiate the CMV subgroup I and II, targeting the partial coat protein gene and the 3′UTR. The RT-PCR assays using the multiplex primers produced an amplicon of 590 bp, with the CMV subgroup I primers. The RT-PCR product was only amplified from the symptomatic leaf samples. The obtained amplicons were gel eluted, and directly sequenced bi-directionally (GenBank Accession Nos. KF805389 and KF805390). BLAST analysis of these sequences showed 97 to 98% nucleotide identities with the CMV isolates in the NCBI database. The isolates collected in Florida exhibited highest identity (98%) with the CMV isolate from tomato (DQ302718). These results revealed the association of CMV subgroup I with symptomatic scotch bonnet leaf samples. Although CMV has been reported from scotch bonnet, this is the first report of its occurrence in Florida.
References: (1) S. Chen et al. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin. 43:465, 2011. (2) R. G. Christie and J. R. Edwardson. Plant Dis. 70:273, 1986.
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