Beet necrotic yellow vein virus (BNYVV)-infected sugarbeets were obtained from many parts of Europe and also from some sites in Asia and the U.S.A. Reverse transcription (RT)-PCR products of more than 1 kbp were obtained for four different regions of the viral genome which may be particularly important with respect to the pathogenic properties of the virus, i.e. for the coat protein and the 42K protein-encoding regions on RNA 2 and for major parts of RNAs 3 and 4. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns obtained with these PCR products revealed the existence of two major strain groups of BNYVV, named type A and type B. The A type was detected in Greece, the former Yugoslavia, Slovakia, parts of Austria, Italy, Spain, parts of France, Belgium, The Netherlands and England as well as in Asia (Turkey, Kazachstan, China and Japan) and the U.S.A. The B type occurs in Germany and parts of France. Mixed infections were detected at the borderline regions between areas of the A and B types. Comparisons of published and newly determined nucleotide sequences of the respective parts of the BNYVV genome indicate that the percentage of nucleotide differences between the A and the B type is approximately 3% for the respective regions of RNAs 2 and 3 and approximately 1·5% for RNA 4. Nucleotide sequences appear to be remarkably stable within each of the two strain groups. The majority of the nucleotide differences between the A and B types occur in the third triplet position. The amino acid changes in the coat protein area are outside the four previously determined antigenic regions that are accessible on the surface of the virus particles and are involved in the formation of continuous and presumably also discontinuous epitopes. This may explain why serological differences between the two strain groups have not been found.


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