In recent years, viroid disease outbreaks have resulted in serious economic losses to a number of tomato growers in North America (1,2,3). At least three pospiviroids have been identified as the causal agents of tomato disease, including Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd), Tomato chlorotic dwarf viroid (TCDVd), and Mexican papita viroid (MPVd). In the spring of 2013, a severe disease outbreak with virus-like symptoms (chlorosis and plant stunting) was observed in a tomato field located in the Dominican Republic, whose tomato production is generally exported to the United States in the winter months. The transplants were produced in house. The disease has reached an epidemic level with many diseased plants pulled and disposed of accordingly. Three samples collected in May of 2013 were screened by ELISA against 16 common tomato viruses (Alfalfa mosaic virus, Cucumber mosaic virus, Impatiens necrotic spot virus, Pepino mosaic virus, Potato virus X, Potato virus Y, Tobacco etch virus, Tobacco mosaic virus, Tobacco ringspot virus, Tomato aspermy virus, Tomato bushy stunt virus, Tomato mosaic virus, Tomato ringspot virus, Tomato spotted wilt virus, Groundnut ringspot virus, and Tomato chlorotic spot virus), a virus group (Potyvirus group), three bacteria (Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis, Pectobacterium atrosepticum, and Xanthomonas spp.), and Phytophthora spp. No positive result was observed, despite the presence of symptoms typical of a viral-like disease. Further analysis by RT-PCR using Agdia's proprietary pospiviroid group-specific primer resulted in positive reactions in all three samples. To determine which species of pospiviroid was present in these tomato samples, full-genomic products of the expected size (~360 bp) were amplified by RT-PCR using specific primers for PSTVd (4) and cloned using TOPO-TA cloning kit (Invitrogen, CA). A total of 8 to 10 clones from each isolate were selected for sequencing. Sequences from each clone were nearly identical and the predominant sequence DR13-01 was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. KF683200). BLASTn searches into the NCBI database demonstrated that isolate DR13-01 shared 97% sequence identity to PSTVd isolates identified in wild Solanum (U51895), cape gooseberry (EU862231), or pepper (AY532803), and 96% identity to the tomato-infecting PSTVd isolate from the United States (JX280944). The relatively lower genome sequence identity (96%) to the tomato-infecting PSTVd isolate in the United States (JX280944) suggests that PSTVd from the Dominican Republic was likely introduced from a different source, although the exact source that resulted in the current disease outbreak remains unknown. It may be the result of an inadvertent introduction of contaminated tomato seed lots or simply from local wild plants. Further investigation is necessary to determine the likely source and route of introduction of PSTVd identified in the current epidemic. Thus, proper control measures could be recommended for disease management. The detection of this viroid disease outbreak in the Dominican Republic represents further geographic expansion of the viroid disease in tomatoes beyond North America.
References: (1). K.-S. Ling and M. Bledsoe. Plant Dis. 93:839, 2009. (2) K.-S. Ling and W. Zhang. Plant Dis. 93:1216, 2009. (3) K.-S. Ling et al. Plant Dis. 93:1075, 2009. (4) A. M. Shamloul et al. Can. J. Plant Pathol. 19:89, 1997.
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