A viroid present in very low titres was isolated from symptomless field broad bean plants. It was identified as a variant of citrus exocortis viroid in the T, V and C domains. Infection of several hosts resulted in a change in the composition of the viroid population. Serial passage through tomato and back to the host of origin, broad bean, resulted in major changes in replication efficiency, host range and pathogenicity. The unique nucleotide sequence differences identified in the original broad bean variant were not conserved after passage through alternative hosts. The effects of these sequence variations on viroid secondary structure result in nonpathogenic viroid variants which can remain unnoticed in certain plant species but may act as reservoirs of viroid disease.


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