© 2018 Rumbou et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. In declining birches (Betula sp.) from different European stands affected by the “birch leaf-roll disease” (BLRD) a novel virus is identified by means of RNA-Seq virome analysis. The virus represents a new member in the genus Badnavirus, family Caulimoviridae, tentatively named Birch leaf roll-associated virus (BLRaV) and it is the first badnavirus found to infect birch. Complete genome sequences (7,862–7,864 nucleotides) of three viral isolates of Finnish and German origin have been determined. The virus sequences show a typical badnavirus organization with three major open reading frames (ORFs) and a fourth potential ORF overlapping with the end of ORF3. ORFs 1-2-3 show low level of amino acid identity to the corresponding proteins encoded by other badnaviruses, reaching a maximum of 44% identity (ORF3). Grapevine vein-clearing virus appears as the closest badnavirus when considering the polymerase region. So far, we can exclude evidence for presence of endogenous BLRaV elements in the birch genome, while evidence for the episomal activity of BLRaV is provided. The viral population holds significant haplotype diversity, while co-infection by different BLRaV variants are observed in single hosts. BLRaV presence is associated with the BLRD in both silver (B. pendula) and downy birch (B. pubescens). These results challenge the earlier hypothesis of a causal role of Cherry leaf roll virus in BLRD. Further work is now needed to finally prove that BLRaV is the causal agent for the BLRD.
Rumbou, A., Candresse, T., Marais, A., Theil, S., Langer, J., Jalkanen, R., & Büttner, C. (2018). A novel badnavirus discovered from Betula sp. affected by birch leaf-roll disease. PLoS ONE, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193888