Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), a native of India belonging to the Lamiaceae family, is an aromatic herb with distinctive aroma, and several commercial varieties are used extensively for culinary and ornamental purposes. During the summer of 2011 and 2012, potted plants of basil in a commercial greenhouse in the Richland-Kennewick area of Washington State were observed showing foliar symptoms consisting of chlorotic spots, ring spots, leaf distortion, and stem necrosis. In initial tests, extracts of symptomatic leaves were positive for Impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV; genus Tospovirus, family Bunyaviridae), when tested with INSV immnunostrips (Agdia, Inc., Elkhart, IN). These samples were negative with immunostrips specific to Tomato spotted wilt virus (genus Tospovirus) and group-specific potyviruses. The virus from symptomatic leaves of basil was transmitted by leaf rub inoculation to Nicotiana benthamiana and Emilia sonchifolia, where it produced necrosis on inoculated leaves followed by systemic necrosis in the former and chlorotic spots and mosaic mottling in newly developed leaves in the latter. Symptomatic leaves from both host plants tested positive with INSV, but not with TSWV, immunostrips. For additional confirmation of INSV, total RNA was extracted from symptomatic leaves of basil using RNeasy Plant Minikit (Qiagen, Inc., Valencia, CA) and used for reverse transcription (RT)-PCR amplification of the nucleocapsid (N) gene using forward (5′-AGCTTAAATCAATAGTAGCA-3′) and reverse (5′-AGCTTCCTCAAGAATAGGCA-3′) primers. RT was carried out at 52°C for 60 min followed by denaturation at 94°C for 3 min. Subsequently, 35 cycles of PCR was carried out with each cycle consisting of 94°C for 1 min, 58°C for 45 s, and 72°C for 1 min, followed by a final extension step at 72°C for 10 min. The amplicons of about 610 nt obtained from RT-PCR were cloned into pTOPO2.1 vector (Invitrogen Corporation, Carlsbad, CA) and three independent clones were sequenced in both directions. Sequence analyses of these clones (GenBank Accession No. KC218475) showed 100% nucleotide sequence identity among themselves and 99% nucleotide sequence identity with INSV isolates from the United States (DQ523598, JX138531, and D00914) and a basil isolate (JQ724132) from Austria. These results further confirm the presence of INSV in symptomatic leaves of basil. Previously, basil has been reported to be naturally infected with TSWV in the United States (3) and INSV in Austria (2). Therefore, this study represents the first confirmed report of the virus in basil in the United States. No species of thrips vector was observed on the affected basil plants. The discovery of INSV in basil has important implications for the nursery industry due to the broad host range of the virus (1); stock plants may serve as a source of inoculum in production areas and infected plants could be distributed to homeowners. It is important for commercial nurseries to monitor for INSV to identify infected mother plants to prevent virus spread. Since more than 31 viruses belonging to 13 different genera have been reported in basil (http://pvo.bio-mirror.cn/famly073.htm#Ocimumbasilicum), further studies are in progress to determine if the observed symptoms on basil are only due to single infection of INSV.
References: (1) M. Daughtrey et al. Plant Dis. 81:1220, 1997. (2). S. Grausgruber-Gröger. New Dis. Rep. 26:12, 2012. (3) G. E. Holcomb et al. Plant Dis. 83:966.