The switchgrass exhibited mosaic symptoms--splotchy, discolored leaves--characteristic of a viral infection, yet tested negative for known infections. Deep sequencing, a new technology, revealed the plants were infected with a new virus in the genus mastrevirus, the first of its kind found in North America.
University of Illinois scientists reported in Archives of Virology evidence of the new mastrevirus, tentatively named switchgrass mosaic-associated virus 1 (SgMaV-1). Other members of the mastrevirus genus, a group of DNA viruses, are known to be responsible for decimating yields in staple food crops (including corn, wheat and sugarcane) throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. It has never been reported in North America.
This is Bright Agindotan, Research Assistant Professor at Montana State University, former postdoctoral researcher at the Energy Biosciences Institute.
Photo by Kathryn Coulter
Many mastreviruses are transmitted from plant to plant by leafhoppers. The rate of infection rises with leafhopper populations, which can cause widespread epidemics and complete yield loss in some crops. Researchers are not sure what vector transmits SgMaV-1 and the impacts of the virus on switchgrass biomass yield, nor do they know what other crops the new virus affects.
"My fear is that this virus is in corn and wheat, and we are not even aware of it," said first author Bright Agindotan, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Energy Biosciences Institute, housed within the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. "It's like when you are sick and go to the hospital, but the doctors say nothing is wrong with you because they only test for what they know."
To be considered the same species in the mastrevirus genus, two viruses must share a minimum of 75 percent of the same genome. Agindotan and his team found two virus isolates that shared 88 percent of the same genome, but just 56-57 percent of any other known mastrevirus. These two isolates are strains of SgMaV-1.
Researchers tested 17 switchgrass varieties that had mosaic symptoms at the EBI Energy Farm. They detected the new virus in all but one variety, called Shenandoah. Switchgrass is a perennial crop, so these infected plants will continue to grow and accumulate the virus year after year, serving as a reservoir for the virus.
"We don't know the impact of this virus on the biomass yield of the energy crops," said Agindotan, who is currently a research assistant professor at Montana State University. "We don't know if this virus will affect cereal crops. We don't know the specific leafhoppers that transmit it, assuming it is transmitted by leafhoppers like other members of the mastrevirus genus."
The mosaic symptoms may have been caused by SgMaV-1, another type of virus infecting the plant, or some combination of the two. In future studies, virus-free plants will need to be infected with SgMaV-1 to see which species are vulnerable and what symptoms emerge. Additional research will determine infectivity, host range, pathogenicity, epidemiology, and vector transmission of SgMaV-1.
"The world is like a global village," Agindotan said. "Plants are imported into United States legally (and illegally) after being certified free of a list of restricted pests. The list is based on known pests. So, it is possible to import plants infected with unknown pests. The origin of the new virus is unknown, but it is most closely related to members of the mastrevirus genus found in Australia.
"You can only test for what you know. Using a technology that detects both known and unknown pathogens is a good tool for food safety
Associate Professor of Crop Sciences Carl Bradley, also a member of the IGB, and Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences Leslie Domier contributed to this work. The paper, "Detection and characterization of the first North American mastrevirus in switchgrass," is available online (DOI 10.1007/s00705-015-2367-5).
This research was supported by the Energy Biosciences Institute, a public-private collaboration where bioscience and biological techniques are applied to help solve the global energy challenge. The partnership, funded by energy company BP, includes researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and BP.
Nicholas Vasi | EurekAlert!
Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases
13.03.2017 | Penn State
How nature creates forest diversity
07.03.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering