Analysis of the biological and molecular variability of Watermelon mosaic virus isolates from Iran

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Watermelon mosaic virus (WMV) is one of the most important viruses that causes different symptoms in Cucurbitaceae. WMV is a potyvirus with a worldwide distribution, but occurs most commonly in temperate and Mediterranean regions. Cucurbit species grown in Yazd, Esfahan, West Azerbaijan, Hormozgan, and Kerman provinces were surveyed for the relative incidence of WMV in 2004–2005. A total of 757 symptomatic cucurbit and 31 weed species were collected and assayed for infection with WMV. Of 788 leaf samples from cucurbit and weed plants, 190 samples were positive by double antibody sandwich ELISA (DAS-ELISA) using specific polyclonal antibody. Among the weed species tested only colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis) was found to be infected with WMV. The coat protein (CP) gene from 18 representative isolates was PCR amplified, cloned, sequenced, and compared with the sequences available in GeneBank. Phylogenetic analysis using 778 nucleotide long sequences of the coat protein gene showed that these isolates fell into two; groups I and II. Only one isolates (KER.JI.1) was classified in the group II. This isolate had a wider host range and infected Nicotiana debneyii and Datura metel. None of the other 17 isolates could infect these two species. Members of group I were divided into three subgroups; A, B, and C. The subgroup IB appears to be a new subgroup comprising only of the Iranian isolates. Phylogenetic analysis based on 200 nucleotides coding for the N-terminal segment of the CP showed that all Iranian isolates except KER.JI.1 clustered with the previously reported WMV strains. All Iranian isolates had a DAG amino acid triplet which is involved in aphid transmissibility. This is the first report on sequence analysis of the nearly full-length CP cDNA clones of WMV isolates from Iran.

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