Recent Advances on Detection and Characterization of Fruit Tree Viruses Using High-Throughput Sequencing Technologies

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Abstract: Perennial crops, such as fruit trees, are infected by many viruses, which are transmitted through vegetative propagation and grafting of infected plant material. Some of these pathogens cause severe crop losses and often reduce the productive life of the orchards. Detection and characterization of these agents in fruit trees is challenging, however, during the last years, the wide application of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies has significantly facilitated this task. In this review, we present recent advances in the discovery, detection, and characterization of fruit tree viruses and virus-like agents accomplished by HTS approaches. A high number of new viruses have been described in the last 5 years, some of them exhibiting novel genomic features that have led to the proposal of the creation of new genera, and the revision of the current virus taxonomy status. Interestingly, several of the newly identified viruses belong to virus genera previously unknown to infect fruit tree species (e.g., FabavirusLuteovirus) a fact that challenges our perspective of plant viruses in general. Finally, applied methodologies, including the use of different molecules as templates, as well as advantages and disadvantages and future directions of HTS in fruit tree virology are discussed


Fruit  trees  host  a  wide  range  of  viral  pathogens,  mainly  as  a  result  of  their  vegetative  mode of propagation and perennial nature [1].  Notably, among fruit trees, 44 viruses have been  identified in the major cultivated Prunus species [2]. Some of these pathogens are causing diseases adversely affecting yield and/or decreasing the fruit quality [1]. The identification, detection, and  characterization of the causal agents of such diseases are challenging, due to the low titer and irregular  within-plant distribution of viruses in perennial plants, the occurrence of both inter- and intra-species mixed-infections in single trees, the frequent symptomless infections or fluctuation of symptom intensity during the season, and the complex and heterogeneous nature of viral populations [3–9]. Viruses 2018, 10, 436; doi:10.3390/v10080436  Viruses 2018, 10, 436 2 of 23  Several biological,  serological,  and molecular assays have been applied,  either alone or in combination, for the detection of fruit tree viruses. Biological assays, also known as biological indexing, were, in the past, an essential tool for the evaluation of the health status of individual plants and for the detection and/or characterization of a particular virus. In the case of fruit tree viruses, bioassays took advantage of the increased susceptibility of some fruit tree genotypes to viral infection, resulting  in pronounced and easily identifiable symptoms expression. A number of fruit tree genotypes have  been used for this purpose, e.g., Malus platycarpa, Malus micromalus, Malus pumila “Virginia Crab” or “Spy227”, for apple and pear virus pathogens [10,11]; and Prunus persica GF305, Prunus tomentosa, Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan” or “Shirofugen” [12–14], for stone fruit viral pathogens. Besides woody indicators, several herbaceous plant species, showing either local or systemic symptoms, have also been used [3,10,15], although no universal indicators for all fruit viruses are available. Effectiveness of bioassays vary considerably and can be hampered by several factors.  Firstly, there is a need for controlled greenhouse facilities for plant maintenance, due to the vector-mediated  transmission of several viruses, thus limiting a large scale and easy-to-use evaluation.  Although symptoms on woody indicators could appear a few weeks post-inoculation, they may take from several months to years in the case of some viruses (e.g., Plum pox virus, PPV). In addition, a high intra-species genetic diversity of fruit tree viruses may result, not only in variable symptomatology [16,17], but also in symptomless reactions (e.g., PPV-Rec isolates in GF305 peach seedlings) [18]. However, a question arises concerning the health status of used indicators, if not issued from in vitro meristem culture or thermotherapy sanitation, due to the possibility of hidden infections possibly influencing the interpretation of results. Nowadays, although still necessary in fruit tree virus research (assessment of biological properties, pathotyping etc.) and certification schemes, the labor- and time-consuming biological indexing, with problematic reliability and subjective evaluation, has less practical application in virus diagnosis. Serological  methods,  ELISA  (enzyme-linked  immunosorbent  assay)  and  its  modifications,although limited in sensitivity, enable cheap and fast parallel diagnosis of many samples, using either polyclonal, monoclonal, or recombinant antibodies [19–21]. However, immunogenicity of some fruit tree viruses is scarce, producing antibodies which are not reliable enough for mass-scale diagnosis. Therefore, specific and sensitive detection of most fruit tree viruses and virus-like pathogens is mainly based on molecular diagnosis. Generally, detection of viral pathogens by genome amplification techniques (Polymerase chain reaction:   PCR,  Reverse  transcription  polymerase  chain  reaction:   RT-PCR  and  Loop-mediated  isothermal amplification:  LAMP) is more sensitive than ELISA, while offering the possibility of multiple detection [22–25]. However, the development of specific molecular tests is strongly dependent  on the knowledge of the pathogen genome and its molecular diversity, making primer design highly dependent on (or limited by) available sequence datasets. Especially in the case of recently discovered or poorly studied viruses, the available sequences might not represent the real pathogen diversity present in the field, resulting in the development of insufficiently polyvalent tests, which might provide false negative results. Similar situations also occurred with well-known and widely spread viruses, such as Prune dwarf virus (PDV) [26] and Apple chlorotic leaf spot virus (ACLSV) [27], highlighting the need for continuous assessment of the viral molecular variability as a prerequisite to develop polyvalent and efficient detection tools. Such problems can be overcome by the use of modern next generation sequencing (NGS) or high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies, which, theoretically, can produce sequence data of every putative viral agent present in a sample without the need of any former knowledge about their genome [28].  This fact, in addition to the relatively little time needed for the completion of a sequence run and the analysis of the resulting data, make HTS the undisputed leading technology in diagnostics, nowadays.

Viruses 2018, 10, 436 3 of 23

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Oct 16, 2018
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