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J Virol. 1997 Nov;71(11):8316-20.

A century of tobamovirus evolution in an Australian population of Nicotiana glauca.

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Depto. de Biotecnología, E.T.S. Ingenieros Agrónomos, Universidad Politécnica, Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain.


The evolution over the past century of two tobamoviruses infecting populations of the immigrant plant Nicotiana glauca in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has been studied. This plant species probably entered Australia in the 1870s. Isolates of the viruses were obtained from N. glauca specimens deposited in the NSW Herbarium between 1899 and 1972, and others were obtained from living plants in 1985 and 1993. It was found that the NSW N. glauca population was infected with tobacco mosaic tobamovirus (TMV) and tobacco mild green mosaic tobamovirus (TMGMV) before 1950 but only with TMGMV after that date. Half the pre-1950 infections were mixtures of the two viruses, and one was a recombinant. Remarkably, sequence analyses showed no increase in the genetic diversity among the TMGMV isolates over the period. However, for TMV, the genetic diversity of synonymous (but not of nonsynonymous) differences between isolates varied and was correlated with their time of isolation. TMV accumulated to smaller concentrations than TMGMV in N. glauca plants, and in mixed experimental infections, the accumulation of TMV, but not of TMGMV, was around 1/10 that in single infections. However, no evidence was found of isolate-specific interaction between the viruses. We conclude that although TMV may have colonized N. glauca in NSW earlier or faster than TMGMV, the latter virus caused a decrease of the TMV population below a threshold at which deleterious mutations were eliminated. This phenomenon, called Muller's ratchet, or a "mutational meltdown," probably caused the disappearance of TMV from the niche.

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