In vegetatively propagated plants that showed pronounced stunting and necrotic leaf spots, a tobravirus infection was diagnosed in which one tobacco rattle virus (TRV, strain AL) RNA1 species was associated with seven different RNA2 species. The latter differed considerably in size and in the types of their 3′ RNA1-related sequences. The 5′ RNA2-specific part of all these RNA2 molecules showed almost 100 % sequence identity with that of RNA2 of the TRV isolate TCM from tulip, but in some of these RNA2 molecules it was shorter than in the TCM isolate, whereas in others it was longer. One of the TRV AL RNA2 molecules, i.e. TC3′PE-a, contained the full set of three full-length RNA2-specific ORFs (ORF2a, -2b and -2c), whereas the previously analysed TCM sequence contained only ORF2a and -2b. In four of these TRV AL RNA2 molecules, i.e. those that had a relatively short RNA2-specific part, the 3′ end was identical to that of the cognate TRV AL RNA1, but in the other three, which had a long RNA2-specific part, it was closely related to that of pea early browning virus (PEBV) RNA1, which was not detected in the infected plants. A comparison with previously described TRV/PEBV RNA2 recombinants suggested that the various TRV AL RNA2 molecules may represent various steps and side steps in an evolutionary process, which is apt to open the wide host range of TRV also to PEBV-derived RNA2 species.


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