Discrimination Between Mild and Severe Citrus tristeza virus Isolates with a Rapid and Highly Specific Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction Method Using TaqMan LNA Probes
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Severe isolates of Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) inducing seedling yellows (SY) and/or stem pitting (SP) in grapefruit or sweet orange are a major threat for the citrus industry worldwide. Identification of these CTV variants was achieved by quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using a general primer set and three TaqMan locked nucleic acids (LNA) probes targeting sequences characteristic of severe, mild (non-SY, non-SP), and T36-like isolates. Successful amplification was achieved from fresh or silica-desiccated CTV-infected samples and all isolates but one reacted with one or more probes. Standard curves using RNA transcripts homologous to the three probes allowed a reproducible quantitative assay, with a wide dynamic range of detection starting with 102 copies. RT-PCR assays with homologous and heterologous transcript RNA mixes demonstrated that each probe reacted only with its cognate sequence which was detected even at ratios below 2.5%. Analysis of 56 pathogenically distinct CTV isolates from 20 countries showed that mild isolates reacted only with the mild probe, whereas severe SP and SY isolates reacted with the severe-SP or the T36-like probes, respectively, and often with a second probe. This procedure can be useful to identify and control potentially dangerous CTV isolates in areas affected only by mild isolates.