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Not the one, but the only one: about Cannabis cryptic virus in plants showing ‘hemp streak’ disease symptoms

Abstract

Interveinal chlorosis and leaf margin wrinkling are widespread symptoms of Cannabis sativa. They are traditionally attributed to the so-called hemp streak virus (HSV), but its existence has not been demonstrated yet. To our knowledge, no molecular investigation has so far been performed in order to identify the causal agent of this symptomatology, we therefore decided to use traditional and molecular virology techniques to better characterize symptoms and pursue the etiological agent. No pathogenic virus was found by using targeted PCR reactions and by RNA sequencing, whereas we were able to detect the Cannabis cryptic virus (CanCV) with both techniques. We, therefore, developed an RT-qPCR assay based on a CanCV-specific TaqMan probe and applied it to a wide range of symptomatic and symptomless plants, using a two-step (for quantification), or a one-step (for fast detection) protocol. Both symptoms and the virus were only shown to be transmitted vertically and did not pass via mechanical inoculation or grafting, though we could not find any cause-effect correlation between them. In fact, the virus was found in all the tested hemp samples, and its abundance varied greatly between different accessions and individuals, independently from the presence and severity of symptoms. The suggestion that hemp streak is caused by a virus is therefore questioned. Some abiotic stresses seem to play a role in triggering the symptoms but this aspect needs further investigation. For breeding purposes, a selection of parental plants based on the absence of symptoms proved to be efficient in containment of the disease.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Lanzoni Chiara, DipSA – Plant Pathology, University of Bologna, for technical support in the laboratory.

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Correspondence to Roberta Paris.

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Funding

The research leading to these results received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7-KBBE-2012-6-singlestage (collaborative project) for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement n° 311849. It was also supported by Italian projects RGV FAO of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Alimentation and Forest Policies (DM 29561 18/12/2014) and “Made in Italy - Alimenti funzionali: farine vegetali per cibi salutistici, ingradienti attivi ad elevata biodisponibilità” (DM 00028MI01 12/07/2011) of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

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Righetti, L., Paris, R., Ratti, C. et al. Not the one, but the only one: about Cannabis cryptic virus in plants showing ‘hemp streak’ disease symptoms. Eur J Plant Pathol 150, 575–588 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10658-017-1301-y

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Keywords

  • Partitiviridae
  • Cannabis sativa
  • HSV
  • RNA-Seq
  • RT-qPCR