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First Report of Taro vein chlorosis virus Infecting Taro (Colocasia esculenta) in the United States

Long, M. H., Ayin, C., Li, R., Hu, J. S., Melzer, M. J.
Plant disease 2014 v.98 no.8 pp. 1160
Colocasia esculenta, DNA primers, RNA, RNA-directed DNA polymerase, RNA-directed RNA polymerase, Taro vein chlorosis virus, arthropods, chlorosis, clones, complementary DNA, disease vectors, farmers, genes, genetic databases, genetic variation, germplasm, islands, leaves, molecular cloning, necrosis, nucleic acid hybridization, nucleocapsid, plant diseases and disorders, plant viruses, polymerase chain reaction, taro, viruses, Molokai, Pennsylvania
In March 2013, taro plants (Colocasia esculenta [L.] Schott cv. Iliuaua) with leaves displaying veinal chlorosis and necrosis were observed on the island of Molokai. These symptoms were similar to those of taro vein chlorosis, a disease of taro caused by Taro vein chlorosis virus (TaVCV; family Rhabdoviridae, genus Nucleorhabdovirus). To explore this possibility, RNA was isolated from both symptomatic and asymptomatic taro leaves using the NucleoSpin RNA II extraction kit (Macherey-Nagel, Bethlehem, PA) according to the provided protocol, except that RLT Buffer (Qiagen Inc., Valencia, CA) was used as the initial extraction buffer. The RNAs were converted to cDNA using random primers and MMLV-RT reverse transcriptase (Promega, Madison, WI). The cDNA underwent PCR assays using primer sets Pol2A1/Pol2A2 and Cap2A/Cap2B which target the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and putative nucleocapsid genes of TaVCV, respectively (1). Amplification products of the correct size were obtained for both primer sets, and these underwent molecular cloning using pGEM-T Easy (Promega). Three clones were selected and their sequences determined by dye-terminator sequencing. After primer sequence removal, the Pol2A1/Pol2A2 product (952 bp; GenBank Accession No. KF921085) and Cap2A/Cap2B product (1,050 bp; KF921086) were found to be 79 and 84% identical to a Fijian strain of TaVCV (AY674964), respectively. Samples from 328 plants with and without taro vein chlorosis symptoms were collected from 35 sites on five of the Hawaiian islands and assayed for TaVCV using the Pol2A1/Pol2A2 primer set as described above. The incidence of TaVCV in these samples was 21.6%, with positive samples coming from each island. Although a very strong association between symptoms and the presence of TaVCV was observed, eight asymptomatic plants were also positive, suggesting the detection assay was able to detect the virus before the onset of symptoms. Conversely, three symptomatic plants were found to be negative, suggesting the Pol2A1/Pol2A2 PCR assay might not detect all strains of TaVCV in Hawaii. A digoxygenin-labeled probe (Roche Applied Science, Indianapolis, IN) derived from the Pol2A1/Pol2A2 amplification product of one sample hybridized with the cDNA of only four of nine TaVCV-infected samples collected from three different islands in a dot-blot hybridization assay performed at high stringency. This probe did not hybridize with the cDNA of five TaVCV-negative samples. TaVCV exhibits a great deal of genetic diversity in the South Pacific nations where it is found; nucleotide divergence of up to 27% in regions of the RdRp gene has been reported (1). The high genetic divergence between the TaVCV isolate characterized in Hawaii and the TaVCV accession in GenBank, as well as the dot blot hybridization assay results support this observation. The widespread distribution of TaVCV in Hawaii suggests it is not a recent introduction. However, the common practice of farmers sharing taro propagules has likely accelerated its spread. An arthropod vector of TaVCV has yet to be identified, so it is unknown whether natural spread is also occurring in Hawaii. Taro has both economic and cultural importance to Hawaii. These findings, representing the first detection of TaVCV in Hawaii and the United States, illustrate the need to develop virus-free germplasm for local, national, and international distribution of this important staple crop.Reference: (1) P. Revill et al. J. Gen Virol. 86:491, 2005.