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Research Project: Emerging Stress Challenges and Functional Genomics of Stress Responses in Alfalfa

Location: Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory

Title: Characterization of the seed virome of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L)

item Nemchinov, Lev
item Irish, Brian
item Grinstead, Sam
item POSTNIKOVA, OLGA - Virginia Tech

Submitted to: Virology Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/4/2023
Publication Date: 5/19/2023
Citation: Nemchinov, L.G., Irish, B.M., Grinstead, S.C., Postnikova, O.A. 2023. Characterization of the seed virome of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L). Virology Journal. 20:96.

Interpretive Summary: Seed transmission of plant viruses can be important due to the role it plays in their dissemination to new areas and subsequent epidemics. Alfalfa is an important legume forage crop worldwide, and viral communities infecting alfalfa seeds are poorly known. In this research, we used a modern technology of high throughput sequencing to screen different accessions of alfalfa seed germplasm maintained by the National Plant Germplasm System for identification of pathogenic viruses. The information gathered will be used to make decisions on the safety of distributing germplasm based on viral presence.

Technical Abstract: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study of the alfalfa seed virome carried out by HTS technology. While a few individual seedborne viruses infecting the crop are well-known, the extent of the viral communities inhabiting seeds of this important forage legume was unexplored. Meanwhile, seed transmission can provide a source of primary infection for effective introduction into crops at an early age or dispersal of a virus into new areas and subsequent viral disease epidemics. It is also critical to point out that alfalfa could be a host reservoir for viruses causing significant losses in other crops. This initial screening of alfalfa germplasm accessions maintained by the NPGS showed that the crop’s mature seeds contain a broad range of viruses, some of which were not previously considered to be seed-transmitted. The information gathered will be used to make decisions on whether germplasm distributions need to be scrutinized more carefully and in developing policies that restrict possible dissemination of confirmed plant pathogenic viruses. A follow up research might include a broader HTS-based survey of germplasm and/or commercial cultivars for viruses and into the possible effects these viruses have on crop production.