Bituminaria bituminosa (L.) Stirton (pitch trefoil) is a perennial legume endemic to the Mediterranean Basin used as forage in arid areas and for stabilization of degraded soils. Mosaic and chlorotic ringspot symptoms have been observed in leaves of B. bituminosa in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Rhône-Alpes regions (France), Liguria (Italy), and Spain since 1975. In crude leaf extracts from more than 50 samples of diverse geographical origins, flexuous particles 680 to 720 nm long and 12 nm wide and pinwheel-like inclusions have been observed with the electron microscope, suggesting infection with a member of the family Potyviridae. The presence of a virus was confirmed by the use of potyvirus-polyvalent ELISA reagents (Potyvirus group test; Agdia, Elkhart, IN) and by the amplification of a DNA fragment of the expected size (≈1,650 bp) with extracts of isolates from different locations using reverse transcription (RT)-PCR with primers specific to members of the Potyviridae (3) corresponding to the 3′ end of the virus genome. The amplified fragment of an isolate from Coaraze (Alpes Maritimes Department, France) was cloned and two cDNA clones corresponding to this amplicon were sequenced (GenBank Accession Nos. EU334546 and EU334547). These two sequences facilitated development of new primers (5′-AAARGCRCCCTATATAGCAG-3′ and 5′-TATAAAGGTAACGCTAGGTGG-3′) to specifically amplify and sequence the coat protein (CP)-coding region of isolates of the virus from five additional French locations. The amino acid sequences of the CP amplicon were more than 96% identical among the French isolates. Comparison with other virus sequences with the BLASTn program revealed that these isolates belonged to the same species as the potyvirus Passiflora chlorosis virus (2), with 89 to 90% and 95 to 97% identity at the nucleotide and amino acid levels, respectively, for the CP-coding region (1). The host range of the virus was evaluated by manual inoculation with the Coaraze isolate and was found to be very narrow. No symptoms and no infections were obtained in Capsella bursa-pastoris, Capsicum annuum, Claytonia perfoliata, Cucumis melo, Cucumis sativus, Cucurbita pepo, Datura stramonium, Gomphrena globosa, Medicago sativa, Nicotiana benthamiana, N. glutinosa, N. tabacum, Ocimum basilicum, Petunia hybrida, Phaseolus mungo, Physalis peruviana, Pisum sativum, Psoralea glandulosa, Ranunculus sardous, Salvia splendens, Solanum lycopersicum, Trifolium repens, Vicia faba, Vigna unguiculata, or Zinnia elegans. Necrotic local lesions were observed in Chenopodium amaranticolor, C. quinoa, and in all eight cultivars of Phaseolus vulgaris tested. The virus was transmitted either manually or by the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) to healthy B. bituminosa seedlings. Symptoms appeared in 10 to 15 weeks, and the virus was detected in the symptomatic plants by RT-PCR. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a virus infecting B. bituminosa.
References: (1) M. J. Adams et al. Arch. Virol. 150:459, 2005. (2) C. A. Baker and L. Jones. Plant Dis. 91:227, 2007. (3) A. Gibbs and A. M. Mackenzie. J. Virol. Methods 63:9, 1997.