Genetic characterization of Pepino mosaic virus isolates from Belgian greenhouse tomatoes reveals genetic recombination

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Abstract

Over a period of a few years, Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) has become one of the most important viral diseases in tomato production worldwide. Infection by PepMV can cause a broad range of symptoms on tomato plants, often leading to significant financial losses. At present, five PepMV genotypes (EU, LP, CH2, US1 and US2) have been described, three of which (EU, LP and US2) have been reported in Europe. Thus far, no correlation has been found between different PepMV genotypes and the symptoms expressed in infected plants. In this paper, the genetic diversity of the PepMV population in Belgian greenhouses is studied and related to symptom development in tomato crops. A novel assay based on restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) was developed to discriminate between the different PepMV genotypes. Both RFLP and sequence analysis revealed the occurrence of two genotypes, the EU genotype and the CH2 genotype, within tomato production in Belgium. Whereas no differences were observed in symptom expression between plants infected by one of the two genotypes, co-infection with both genotypes resulted in more severe PepMV symptoms. Furthermore, our study revealed that PepMV recombinants frequently occur in mixed infections under natural conditions. This may possibly result in the generation of viral variants with increased aggressiveness.

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