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Biotechnological approaches to determine the impact of viruses in the energy crop plant Jatropha curcas

Rose C Ramkat, Alberto Calari, Fatemeh Maghuly and Margit Laimer*

Author Affiliations

Plant Biotechnology Unit, IAM, VIBT, BOKU, Muthgasse 18, A - 1190 Vienna, Austria

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Virology Journal 2011, 8:386  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-386

Published: 3 August 2011



Geminiviruses infect a wide range of plant species including Jatropha and cassava both belonging to family Euphorbiaceae. Cassava is traditionally an important food crop in Sub - Saharan countries, while Jatropha is considered as valuable biofuel plant with great perspectives in the future.


A total of 127 Jatropha samples from Ethiopia and Kenya and 124 cassava samples from Kenya were tested by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for RNA viruses and polymerase chain reaction for geminiviruses. Jatropha samples from 4 different districts in Kenya and Ethiopia (analyzed by ELISA) were negative for all three RNA viruses tested: Cassava brown streak virus (CBSV), Cassava common mosaic virus, Cucumber mosaic virus, Three cassava samples from Busia district (Kenya) contained CBSV. Efforts to develop diagnostic approaches allowing reliable pathogen detection in Jatropha, involved the amplification and sequencing of the entire DNA A molecules of 40 Kenyan isolates belonging to African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV) and East African cassava mosaic virus - Uganda. This information enabled the design of novel primers to address different questions: a) primers amplifying longer sequences led to a phylogenetic tree of isolates, allowing some predictions on the evolutionary aspects of Begomoviruses in Jatrophia; b) primers amplifying shorter sequences represent a reliable diagnostic tool. This is the first report of the two Begomoviruses in J. curcas. Two cassava samples were co - infected with cassava mosaic geminivirus and CBSV. A Defective DNA A of ACMV was found for the first time in Jatropha.


Cassava geminiviruses occurring in Jatropha might be spread wider than anticipated. If not taken care of, this virus infection might negatively impact large scale plantations for biofuel production. Being hosts for similar pathogens, the planting vicinity of the two crop plants needs to be handled carefully.