Cherry leaf roll virus (CLRV) belongs to the Nepovirus genus within the family Comoviridae. It has a host range which includes a number of wild tree and shrub species. The serological and molecular diversity of CLRV was assessed using a collection of isolates and samples recovered from woody and herbaceous host plants from different geographical origins. Molecular diversity was assessed by sequencing a short (375-bp) region of the 3' noncoding region (NCR) of the genomic RNAs while serological diversity was assessed using a panel of seven monoclonal antibodies raised initially against a walnut isolate of CLRV. The genomic region analyzed was shown to exhibit a significant degree of molecular variability with an average pairwise divergence of 8.5% (nucleotide identity). Similarly, serological variability proved to be high, with no single monoclonal antibody being able to recognize all isolates analyzed. Serological and molecular phylogenetic reconstructions showed a strong correlation. Remarkably, the diversity of CLRV populations is to a large extent defined by the host plant from which the viral samples are originally obtained. There are relatively few reports of plant viruses for which the genetic diversity is structured by the host plant. In the case of CLRV, we hypothesize that this situation may reflect the exclusive mode of transmission in natural plant populations by pollen and by seeds. These modes of transmission are likely to impose barriers to host change by the virus, leading to rapid biological and genetic separation of CLRV variants coevolving with different plant host species.
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