Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California, Riverside 92521.
A well-studied severe isolate of Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) known as SY568 has previously been shown to contain multiple variants of the virus which differ in their genetic and biological characters. Aphid transmission was used in an attempt to segregate some of these variants for further characterization. Resulting infections gave symptoms which varied from asymptomatic to more severe than the inoculum source. RNase protection assays (RPAs) were used to compare nine regions of the CTV genome and determine whether unique strains could be identified. Five aphid-transmitted subcultures, with fingerprints that were different from those of the inoculum sources in at least one genomic area, were then cloned, sequenced, and compared with known isolates. An asymptomatic strain was shown to be different in every area of the CTV genome when examined by RPA and sequencing of selected regions. Mixed-infection studies using graft transmission of the asymptomatic subculture and two of the more severe aphid-transmitted subcultures showed that the mild strain was not able to compete well when in the presence of any of the severe variants tested, and its titer was significantly reduced from that seen in single infection. The mild strain and a selected severe strain were singly graft inoculated into five different citrus hosts (sweet orange, grapefruit, sour orange, lemon, and lime), where they maintained their distinct biological and genetic characteristics.