First author: Microbiology Program, and second and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Riverside 92521-0122
Isolates of Tobacco mild green mosaic virus (TMGMV), a member of the genus Tobamovirus, from Nicotiana glauca in southern California fall into two major genotypes, large (TMGMV-L) and small (TMGMV-S), distinguishable by the size of the coat protein (CP) subgenomic RNA. Mixed infections in the field were rare (1.6%), even at sites where both genotypes were common in single infections (62% for TMGMV-S; 37% for TMGMV-L). When plants experimentally protected by TMGMV-L were challenged by TMGMV-S, almost complete cross protection (90% of total plants challenged) was observed regardless of the protective time period (minimum 12 h and maximum 14 days). When plants protected by TMGMV-S were challenged with TMGMV-L, complete cross protection was observed when the protective time was 5 to 14 days. However, when the protective time was 3 days or less, protection by TMGMV-S was greatly reduced (11%), with mixed infections of TMGMV-S and -L predominating (69%), and single infections of the challenge virus TMGMVL were frequently observed (20%). When TMGMV-S and -L virions were co-inoculated, the virus progeny from individual plants most often contained only the TMGMV-L genome (61%) or, less frequently (39%), both genotypes. Therefore, TMGMV-L was more competitive than TMGMV-S and was able to displace TMGMV-S in experimental situations. The results obtained from cross-protection experiments in the greenhouse would explain the low frequency of natural mixed infections. It is possible that the experimental superior competitiveness of the novel L genotype has already or will play a role in its abundance in southern California.