First and third authors: Department of Environmental Biology, and second author: Laboratory Service Division, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada
The nucleotide sequence of the hypovirulence-associated double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in hypovirulent isolate Sh12B of Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, the causal agent of dollar spot of turf grass, was determined. This large dsRNA (L-dsRNA) is 2,632 bp long and is A and U rich (61.0% A+U residues). One strand of this dsRNA contains an open reading frame (ORF) with the potential to encode a protein of 720 amino acids. This ORF contains 12 UGA codons, predicted to encode tryptophan in ascomycete mitochondria, and has a codon bias typical of mitochondrial genes, which is consistent with a mitochondrial localization of this dsRNA. The amino acid sequence contains conserved motifs typical of RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps). Sequence analyses of the nucleotide and RdRp-like protein revealed that the L-dsRNA is homologous with previously characterized mitochondrial viruses and dsRNAs from other phytopathogenic fungi, and shares 92.4% nucleotide and 95.1% amino acid sequence identities with the Ophiostoma novo-ulmi mitovirus 3a-Ld from Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, the causal agent of Dutch elm disease. The results indicate that these two dsRNAs are conspecific. This is the first report that a hypovirulence-associated dsRNA virus naturally occurs in two taxonomically distinct fungi, and indicates that horizontal transmission of this dsRNA virus may have occurred between these fungi.