Detection of tomato mosaic tobamovirus RNA in ancient glacial ice


Tomato mosaic tobamovirus is a very stable plant virus with a wide host range, which has been detected in plants, soil, water, and clouds. Because of its stability and prevalence in the environment, we hypothesized that it might be preserved in ancient ice. We detected tomato mosaic tobamovirus RNA by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction amplification in glacial ice subcores <500 to approximately 140,000 years old from drill sites in Greenland. Subcores that contained multiple tomato mosaic tobamovirus genotypes suggest diverse atmospheric origins of the virus, whereas those containing tomato mosaic tobamovirus sequences nearly identical to contemporary ones suggest that recent tomato mosaic tobamovirus populations have an extended age structure. Detection of tomato mosaic tobamovirus in ice raises the possibilities that stable viruses of humans and other hosts might be preserved there, and that entrapped ancient viable viruses may be continually or intermittently released into the modern environment.

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Accepted: 1 June 1999

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Castello, J., Rogers, S., Starmer, W. et al. Detection of tomato mosaic tobamovirus RNA in ancient glacial ice. Polar Biol 22, 207–212 (1999).

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  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Host Range
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction Amplification
  • Reaction Amplification
  • Plant Virus