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Molecular Beacons: A New Approach to Plant Virus Detection

March 2000 , Volume 90 , Number  3
Pages  269 - 275

Alvin Jin-Cherng Eun and Sek-Man Wong

Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore 117543

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Accepted for publication 24 November 1999.

Molecular beacons are single-stranded nucleic acid molecules with a stem-loop conformation. The stem portion consists of complementary sequences at the 5′ and 3′ terminals of the molecule, while the loop portion consists of probe sequences that are complementary to the target sequences of choice. A fluorescent moiety is attached to one end, while a quenching moiety is attached to the opposite end. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reactions are carried out with primers that amplify specific genome sequences of interest, yielding targets complementary to their respective molecular beacons for subsequent detection. Here, we have designed four molecular beacons specific to the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and coat protein genes of two orchid viruses, namely Cymbidium mosaic virus (CymMV) and Odontoglossum ringspot virus (ORSV). This technology is successfully applied to detect as little as 0.5 ng of viral RNA of both orchid viruses simultaneously in 100 mg of coinfected Oncidium orchid leaves. This rapid and specific technique is applicable to the orchid industry, which routinely carries out virus indexing and screening for virus-resistant cultivars. We belief that use of this molecular beacon approach can be extended to the detection of multiple plant viruses in various crops.

© 2000 The American Phytopathological Society