During January 2014, open field and greenhouse tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) crops in the peripheral areas of Riyadh region (Al-Aflaj, Al-Kharj, Al-Waseel, and Al-Dalam), Saudi Arabia, were surveyed. In all surveyed tomato crops, yellowing symptoms were observed on the lower leaves, possibly infected by a whitefly transmitted crinivirus (family Closteroviridae) such as Tomato chlorosis virus (ToCV) and/or Tomato infectious chlorosis virus (TICV). Dense population of whiteflies (Bemisia tabaci G.) were present in all affected plants. Incidence of the yellowing disease varied between four greenhouses and three open field tomato crops, but in the majority of the tomato crops surveyed, symptoms typical of Begomovirus infection such as severe stunting, degeneration, upward cupping, distortion and interveinal yellowing of upper leaves, and flower abortion were also observed. Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) is endemic in Saudi Arabia causing severe crop losses (1). Twenty-six leaf samples from 24 symptomatic and two asymptomatic plants from four fields (three greenhouses and one open field crop) were collected and were processed in the lab at King Saud University. Whitefly transmission on tomato indicator plants was carried out using B. tabaci to fulfill Koch's postulates. Two hundred virus-free B. tabaci adults were confined to one of the collected symptomatic tomato sample singly infected with ToCV for a 48-h acquisition access period, followed by a 48-h inoculation access period on five healthy tomato plants Hybrid Super Strain B, using 40 whiteflies per plant. Crinivirus detection following transmission was conducted by RT-PCR. Total RNA was extracted from 26 collected leaf samples using the Total RNA Purification Kit and analyzed by SCRIPT One–Step RT-PCR Kit (Jena Bioscience). First, the degenerate primers HS-11/HS12 were used for amplification of a 587-bp fragment of the HSP70 gene of ToCV and TICV (3). Second, the RT-PCR product was subjected to a nested PCR using specific primers TIC-3/TIC-4 and TOC-5/TOC-6, for the detection of both TICV and ToCV, respectively (2). Finally, degenerate primers (AV494/AC1048) were used for detection of begomoviruses (4). No fragment was amplified by TIC-3/TIC-4 primer whereas TOC-5/TOC-6 amplified a size of 463 bp in all 24 symptomatic tested samples, including one mixed infection with TYLCV detected by AV494/AC1048. Asymptomatic samples did not produce any amplicon regarding TICV, ToCV, and Begomovirus detection. The amplicons of four positive fragments, each from one field, were further sequenced in both directions and all obtained sequences (KJ433488, KJ433489, KJ433490, and KJ433491) analyzed with BLAST and revealed 99% identity with the most closely deposited sequences in NCBI from Japan (AB513442) and Brazil (JQ952601). In the transmission tests, ToCV was detected to all tomato indicator plants which revealed yellowing symptoms 6 weeks post inoculation, whereas no transmission was obtained when non-viruliferous whitefly adults fed on two asymptomatic tomato leaves. To our knowledge, this is the first report of ToCV infecting tomato crops in Saudi Arabia. Further studies are being carried out to study epidemiology and genetic diversity of this virus associated with yellowing diseases of tomato in different regions of Saudi Arabia. This finding is important for the tomato crops and possibly other virus hosts as may cause serious epidemics and crop losses.
References: (1) A. M. Ajlan et al. Arab J. Biotech. 10:179, 2007. (3) C. I. Dovas et al. Plant Dis. 86:1345, 2002. (2) J. Navas-Castillo et al. Plant Dis. 84:835, 2000. (4) S. D. Whyatt and J. K. Brown. Phytopathology 86:1288, 1996.
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