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Real-time RT-PCR high-resolution melting curve analysis and multiplex RT-PCR to detect and differentiate grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 variant groups I, II, III and VI

Rachelle Bester1, Anna E C Jooste2, Hans J Maree13 and Johan T Burger1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

2 Plant Protection Research Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa

3 Biotechnology Platform, Agricultural Research Council Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:219  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-219

Published: 27 September 2012



Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3) is the main contributing agent of leafroll disease worldwide. Four of the six GLRaV-3 variant groups known have been found in South Africa, but their individual contribution to leafroll disease is unknown. In order to study the pathogenesis of leafroll disease, a sensitive and accurate diagnostic assay is required that can detect different variant groups of GLRaV-3.


In this study, a one-step real-time RT-PCR, followed by high-resolution melting (HRM) curve analysis for the simultaneous detection and identification of GLRaV-3 variants of groups I, II, III and VI, was developed. A melting point confidence interval for each variant group was calculated to include at least 90% of all melting points observed. A multiplex RT-PCR protocol was developed to these four variant groups in order to assess the efficacy of the real-time RT-PCR HRM assay.


A universal primer set for GLRaV-3 targeting the heat shock protein 70 homologue (Hsp70h) gene of GLRaV-3 was designed that is able to detect GLRaV-3 variant groups I, II, III and VI and differentiate between them with high-resolution melting curve analysis. The real-time RT-PCR HRM and the multiplex RT-PCR were optimized using 121 GLRaV-3 positive samples. Due to a considerable variation in melting profile observed within each GLRaV-3 group, a confidence interval of above 90% was calculated for each variant group, based on the range and distribution of melting points. The intervals of groups I and II could not be distinguished and a 95% joint confidence interval was calculated for simultaneous detection of group I and II variants. An additional primer pair targeting GLRaV-3 ORF1a was developed that can be used in a subsequent real-time RT-PCR HRM to differentiate between variants of groups I and II. Additionally, the multiplex RT-PCR successfully validated 94.64% of the infections detected with the real-time RT-PCR HRM.


The real-time RT-PCR HRM provides a sensitive, automated and rapid tool to detect and differentiate different variant groups in order to study the epidemiology of leafroll disease.

Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3; GLRaV-3; Real-time RT-PCR; High-resolution melting curve analysis; Multiplex RT-PCR; Molecular variants; Leafroll disease