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  • Author or Editor: J.V. da Graça x
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Viroids are graft- or mechanically transmissible agents, disseminated through budding. Biological indexing of commercially important citrus cultivars grown in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas showed that many are infected with citrus viroids. Most of these trees carried more than one viroid. In most cases, the infected trees are asymptomatic carriers because sour orange, the predominant rootstock used in Texas, does not show symptoms of viroid infection. Detection of viroids through biological indexing on sensitive indicator plants followed by sequential polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (sPAGE) is the gold standard but is time-consuming and requires plants to be kept at optimum conditions. A conditional use of reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) provides an efficient and alternative detection of viroids for use in the Texas virus-free citrus budwood certification program. RT-PCR could be useful in Texas to help expedite the evaluation for the presence of viroids before conducting the final biologic indexing. Using RT-PCR, we could detect, clone, and sequence full-length viroids of Citrus exocortis viroid (CEVd), Hop stunt viroid (HSVd) (both cachexia and noncachexia variants), Citrus viroid-III (Citrus dwarfing viroid), and Citrus viroid-IV (Citrus bark cracking viroid) from a collection of viroid-inoculated grapefruit plants. The source plants were previously shown to be viroid-infected by biological indexing on Etrog citron plants. Based on our results, RT-PCR can be a conditional substitute for biological indexing of mother trees in foundation blocks and shoot tip-grafted trees in the virus-free budwood program. A positive RT-PCR result has a serendipitous value because those trees can be discarded from the pool before expensive biological indexing.

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