Molecular characterization and impacts of a strain of Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 2 causing asymptomatic infection in a wine grape cultivar.
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BACKGROUND: Grapevine leafroll (GLD) is considered as the most economically important virus disease affecting wine grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) in many grapevine-growing regions. GLD produces distinct symptoms in red- and white-berried cultivars. In this study, we determined the complete genome sequence of an asymptomatic strain of Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 2 (GLRaV-2) and studied its impacts on fruit yield and berry quality attributes in an own-rooted, red-berried wine grape cultivar. FINDINGS: The complete genome of GLRaV-2 obtained from a red-berried wine grape cultivar Sangiovese, designated as GLRaV-2-SG, was determined to be 16,474 nucleotides in length. In pairwise comparisons, using complete genome sequences of GLRaV-2 strains available in GenBank, GLRaV-2-SG was more closely related to GLRaV-2-OR1 from Oregon, USA, and GLRaV-2-93/955 from South Africa, and distantly related to GLRaV-2-BD from Italy and GLRaV-2-RG from USA. Fruit yield estimates and berry quality analysis at the time of commercial harvest indicated that GLRaV-2-SG had little impact on fruit yield and total soluble solids, juice pH and total anthocyanins of berry skin. CONCLUSIONS: Because so little is known about the effects of asymptomatic virus infections in wine grapes, this study expanded our knowledge of the occurrence and impacts of GLRaV-2 causing asymptomatic infections. Our results indicated that an asymptomatic strain of GLRaV-2 may not cause significant effects to overall fruit yield and berry quality in own-rooted vines, but can affect its host in more subtle ways. Since disease symptoms are not apparent, relying on visual symptoms during disease surveys may result in the escape of asymptomatic strains of GLRaV-2. Thus, it is necessary to use appropriate diagnostic assays for reliable detection of viruses causing asymptomatic infections.