Hibiscus virus discovered in Brazil

 NUS scientists have synthesised the cDNA clone of the Brazilian variant of the hibiscus plant virus.

Prof WONG Sek Man from the Department of Biological Sciences in NUS working together with Dr Elliot KITAJIMA from Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil have discovered a Brazilian isolate of the Hibiscus latent Fort Pierce virus (HLFPV), a tobamovirus. This tobamovirus also has an internal poly(A) tract which is usually not found in this virus group, except for the Hibiscus latent Singapore virus.  The research team at NUS performed molecular cloning work and is the first in the world to report the successful synthesis of a biologically active, full-length cDNA clone of this plant virus, HLFPV-BR.

The researchers found that although this virus is related to the Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV), it exhibits certain unexpected traits.  It is relatively unstable in its propagating hosts, the hibiscus and tobacco plants. This instability makes the detection and propagation of this plant virus difficult.  This is unusual because plant viruses of this group are known to be stable in their hosts. They also found that this particular species can barely be detected in infected plants while the TMV can accumulate up to very high level in its host.   

The research team plans to investigate further to understand more about the traits exhibited by this plant virus. With the biologically active full-length cDNA clone of the virus, the research team can use it to study its unique properties. The findings will be useful to devise appropriate strategies to control the TMV and protect agricultural crops of economic importance.

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Figure shows a transmission electron micrograph of the Hibiscus latent Fort Pierce’s Virus – Brazilian isolate. Notice the morphology of the relatively non-straight rod-shaped virions (bar = 50 nm). [Image credit: Ruimin GAO]


Gao RM, Niu, SN, Dai, WF, Kitajima, E, Wong. S-M. “Hibiscus latent Fort Pierce virus in Brazil and synthesis of its biologically active full-length cDNA clone”. Virus Genes 52 (2016) 13448. doi:10.1007/s11262-016-1344-8.