A. Marais, and
C. Faure, INRA, UMR 1332 Biologie du Fruit et Pathologie, BP81, 33883 Villenave d'Ornon cedex, France and Université de Bordeaux, UMR 1332 Biologie du Fruit et Pathologie, BP81, 33883 Villenave d'Ornon cedex, France
Southern tomato virus (STV) is a recently described virus of tomato reported to be associated with a new disorder in this crop, the tomato yellow stunt disease (2). However, its detection in asymptomatic seedlings of some tomato varieties raises doubts about its pathogenicity (2). STV has a small 3.5-kb dsRNA genome with properties that place it in an intermediate position between the Totiviridae and Partitiviridae families. STV also has an unusual biology because, while being seed-transmitted at a high rate, it is neither mechanically nor graft-transmitted (2). It has so far only been reported from North America (Mississipi and California in the United States, as well as Mexico) (2). Agents with similar genomic organizations but apparently not associated with specific disease symptoms have recently been reported from faba bean, rhododendrons, and blueberry and proposed to represent a novel family of dsRNA viruses tentatively named Amalgamaviridae (1). In the course of plant virus metagenomics experiments, double stranded RNAs extracted from tomato samples from Southwest France collected in 2011 (variety unknown) were analyzed by 454 pyrosequencing. BLAST analysis of the contigs assembled from individual sequencing reads revealed a ca. 2.2 kb long contig with very high (99.7%) identity with the STV reference sequence deposited in GenBank (NC_011591). In order to confirm the presence of STV, an STV-specific primer pair (STV-fw 5′ CTGGAGATGAAGTGCTCGAAGA 3′ and STV-rev 5′ TGGCTCGTCTCGCATCCTTCG 3′) was designed and used to amplify by RT-PCR an 894-bp fragment from the relevant tomato sample. A PCR product of the expected size was obtained and the identity of the amplified agent verified by sequencing of the amplicon. The sequence obtained was identical to contig obtained through pyrosequencing of purified dsRNAs and has been deposited in GenBank (KC333078). This is, to our knowledge, the first report of STV infecting tomato crops outside of North America. The tomato sample from France from which STV was recovered showed distinct viral infection symptoms (e.g., mosaics, leaf deformation), that are clearly different from the symptoms reported for the tomato yellow stunt disease (2). However, the plants were found to be also infected with Tomato mosaic virus and Potato virus Y, so that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about a potential contribution of STV to the symptoms observed. The high rate of STV seed transmission and its reported presence in commercial seed lots of several varieties (2) suggest that its distribution could be much broader than is currently known and further efforts are clearly needed to provide a final and conclusive answer as to the potential pathogenicity of this agent to tomato crops.
References: (1) R. R. Martin et al. Virus Res. 155:175, 2011. (2) S. Sabanadzovic et al. Virus Res. 140:130, 2009.