Roses are one of the most popular flowering shrubs in the United States, with a total wholesale value of US$194 million. Among the major states, Florida is the fourth largest producer of roses with a total value exceeding US$20 million (4). In Florida, the roses have become especially popular in recent years with the introduction of Knock Out and other shrub roses. Virus-like symptoms including witches'-broom, excessive thorns, abnormal red discoloration of shoots and foliages, distorted leaves, and deformed buds and flowers were initially observed on Knock Out roses in a commercial nursery in Quincy, FL, in November 2013. Fifteen plants out of ~250,000 plants showed these characteristic symptoms. Total RNA extracts (RNeasy Plant Mini Kit, Qiagen, Valencia, CA) from eight symptomatic and two non-symptomatic rose samples were subjected to reverse-transcription (RT) assays using SuperScript III Reverse transcriptase (Invitrogen, Life Technologies, NY) and random hexamer primers. The cDNA synthesized was then subjected to PCR assay using Platinum Taq DNA polymerase (Invitrogen, Life Technologies) and using Rose rosette virus (RRV) specific primers RRV-F and RRV-R (1), targeting the core region of the RNA1 genome of the virus. The RT-PCR assays using the specific primers produced amplicons of 375 bp, only in the symptomatic leaf samples. The obtained amplicons were PCR purified and sequenced directly (GenBank Accession Nos. KF990370 to KF990377). BLAST analysis of these sequences revealed a higher identity of 99% with the RRV (HQ871942) in the NCBI database. Pairwise comparison of the eight RRV sequences exhibited 99 to 100% identity among themselves. These results revealed the association of RRV with the symptomatic rose plants. Eight symptomatic and two non-symptomatic rose plant samples were tested for RRV using blot hybridization assay, utilizing a digoxigenin-labeled DNA probe of 511 bp, targeting the RNA1 genome of the RRV. All eight symptomatic rose plants showed a positive reaction to the RRV-specific probes, confirming the presence of RRV in the samples, while the non-symptomatic and the buffer control did not produce any reactions. Even though the virus is reported to spread by an eriophyid mite Phyllocoptes fructiphilus, thorough examination of the infected samples showed absence of the vector. The samples were also tested using RT-PCR for the presence of Rose cryptic virus (RCV) and Blackberry chlorotic ringspot virus (BCRV) using specific primers (2,3). The samples tested negative for the RCV and BCRV. This is the first report of occurrence of RRV on rose in Florida. Considering the economic importance of the rose plants and the highly destructive nature of RRV, this report underscores the need for immediate effective quarantine and management of the virus for protecting the economically important rose industry in Florida.
References: (1) A. G. Laney et al. J. Gen. Virol. 92:1727, 2011. (2) S. Sabanadzovic and N. Abou Ghanem-Sabanadzovic. J. Plant Pathol. 90:287, 2008. (3) I. E. Tzanetakis et al. Plant Pathol. 55:568, 2006. (4) USDA. 2007 Census of Agriculture 3:25, Washington, DC, 2010.
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