, Volume 102, Issue 9, pp 837-846

Studies on the diagnosis of hop stunt viroid in fruit trees: Identification of new hosts and application of a nucleic acid extraction procedure based on non-organic solvents

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A non-radioactive digoxigenin-labelled RNA probe specific for hop stunt viroid (HSVd) diagnosis has been developed. The high sensitivity and specificity of this RNA probe in dot blot hybridizations to nucleic acids from field samples, allowed the confirmation of the presence of HSVd in apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) and its detection in two fruit tree species not previously described as hosts of this pathogen, almond (Prunus dulcis Miller) and pomegranate (Punica granatum L.). This result supports and extends the notion of the world wide distribution of HSVd, infecting cultivated fruit trees. HSVd was also found to accumulate to much higher levels in mature apricot fruits than in leaves. Additionally, a sample processing procedure which does not involve the use of organic solvents was demonstrated to render faithful results when used for viroid detection. The combined reliability and facility of use of both this extraction procedure and the non-radioactive probe will benefit agronomic investigations addressing the detection and eradication of HSVd. Other applications of the work described here, as the study of possible causal relations between specific disorders and HSVd infection, are also discussed.