Geminivirus isolates associated with the epidemic of severe cassava mosaic disease in Uganda were studied and compared with virus isolates from the part of Uganda outside the epidemic area, and with African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV) and East African cassava mosaic virus (EACMV). Isolates of a novel type [the Uganda variant (UgV)] were detected in severely affected plants from the epidemic area, whereas those from plants outside the epidemic area were typical of ACMV. The complete nucleotide sequences of DNA-A of UgV (2799 nt) and of a Tanzanian isolate of EACMV (2801 nt) were determined and are extremely similar, except for the coat protein (CP) gene. The CP gene of UgV has three distinct regions: the 5' 219 nt are 99% identical to EACMV (only 79% to ACMV); the following 459 nt are 99% identical to ACMV (75% to EACMV); and the 3' 93 nt are 98% identical to EACMV (76% to ACMV). UgV DNA-A therefore is considered to have arisen by interspecific recombination of EACMV and ACMV. Despite the hybrid nature of their CP, UgV isolates were indistinguishable from ACMV in tests with 20 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), including seven which reacted with ACMV but not EACMV. The discontinuous epitopes detected by these seven MAbs must involve amino acids which lie in the central part of the CP (residues 74-226) and which differ in ACMV and EACMV. UgV isolates were detected in severely mosaic-affected plants from all 11 widely separated locations sampled. The probable role of recombination in geminivirus evolution in the short to medium term is discussed.


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