The sequence of pear blister canker viroid (PBCVd), the putative causal agent of pear blister canker (PBC) disease, has been determined. PBCVd consists of a single-stranded circular RNA of 315 nucleotide residues which assumes a branched conformation when it is folded in the model of lowest free energy. PBCVd has highest sequence similarity with grapevine 1B viroid (52.4%), but also contains sequences related to regions present in viroids that belong to different subgroups, suggesting that PBCVd could have developed from RNA recombination between viroids replicating in a common host plant. PBCVd contains almost the entire central sequence which is conserved in the members of the apple scar skin subgroup (apscaviroids) as well as a conserved sequence located in the left-terminal region of apscaviroids and pospiviroids (whose type member is potato spindle tuber viroid). A consensus phylogenetic tree has been obtained in which PBCVd and other viroids previously classified as apscaviroids appear closely related, allowing consideration of PBCVd as a new member of this subgroup.


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