Natural host range, thrips and seed transmission of distinct Tobacco streak virus strains in Queensland, Australia.
Diseases caused by Tobacco streak virus (TSV) have resulted in significant crop losses in sunflower and mung bean crops in Australia. Two genetically distinct strains from central Queensland, TSV-parthenium and TSV-crownbeard, have been previously described. They share only 81% total-genome nucleotide sequence identity and have distinct major alternative hosts, Parthenium hysterophorus (parthenium) and Verbesina encelioides (crownbeard). We developed and used strain-specific multiplex Polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) for the three RNA segments of TSV-parthenium and TSV-crownbeard to accurately characterise the strains naturally infecting 41 hosts species. Hosts included species from 11 plant families, including 12 species endemic to Australia. Results from field surveys and inoculation tests indicate that parthenium is a poor host of TSV-crownbeard. By contrast, crownbeard was both a natural host of, and experimentally infected by TSV-parthenium but this infection combination resulted in non-viable seed. These differences appear to be an effective biological barrier that largely restricts these two TSV strains to their respective major alternative hosts. TSV-crownbeard was seed transmitted from naturally infected crownbeard at a rate of between 5% and 50% and was closely associated with the geographical distribution of crownbeard in central Queensland. TSV-parthenium and TSV-crownbeard were also seed transmitted in experimentally infected ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) at rates of up to 40% and 27%, respectively. The related subgroup 1 ilarvirus, Ageratum latent virus, was also seed transmitted at a rate of 18% in ageratum which is its major alternative host. Thrips species Frankliniella schultzei and Microcephalothrips abdominalis were commonly found in flowers of TSV-affected crops and nearby weed hosts. Both species readily transmitted TSV-parthenium and TSV-crownbeard. The results are discussed in terms of how two genetically and biologically distinct TSV strains have similar life cycle strategies in the same environment.