Transnational cooperation leads to segregation

Pictures of plants infected with natural green spot virus (PhCMoV).

Image: Figure 1 from the study, which shows images of Physiostegia chlorovirus (PhCMoV) infected plants.
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Credit: the authors

at 21St Century, “collaboration” has become a common buzzword, but working together effectively across disciplines and countries is easier said than done. However, true collaboration is critical to combating plant pathogens; Sharing information about plant diseases facilitates early detection, efficient and rapid characterization, and subsequent management. Chlorine spot virus (PhCMoV), a plant disease first identified in Austria in 2018, initially received inadequate characterization. This then sparked studies across Europe as new symptoms appeared on economically important crops. These independent studies converged into a single study, recently published in plant diseasedemonstrating the power of collaboration that goes beyond a mere buzzword.

In the consolidated study, Colin Temple and colleagues from eight laboratories in five European countries used pre-publication sharing of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) data to improve knowledge of PhCMoV biology, epidemiology, and genetic diversity.

The researchers identified PhCMoV in eight European countries, plus Austria, and confirmed its presence in samples collected in 2002. Mechanical inoculation of PhCMoV to healthy host plants in control conditions allowed the authors to verify the association of the virus with symptoms. Their results show that PhCMoV can infect at least nine plant species and cause severe fruit symptoms on economically important crops such as tomato, eggplant and cucumber. In addition, sequencing of 21 different infected host plants from different origins allowed the genomes to be compared, which showed that the genomes of two isolates from the same site had barely evolved over the course of 17 years. This indicates that the same isolate of an organism can survive without adaptation in a given ecosystem.

In addition to describing an emerging plant disease, this study demonstrates how solidarity and trust among scientists can accelerate a common goal. Reporting author Sebastien Massart recalls the process, and comments, “The most exciting moment in this research was when we gradually realized that we were not alone, that different research groups had suddenly and independently detected this virus in host plants with different symptoms and countries all over Europe.”

Uniting against this virus by sharing pre-publication of HTS data has created a collaborative space free of competition, which demonstrates how “trusting colleagues and sharing information about the latest findings between groups can facilitate synergy, speed up virus characterization and gather the most information in a single publication,” says Massart.

This research will ultimately benefit all plant health stakeholders and provide a solid foundation of knowledge for further studies of plant rhabdoviruses.

For more details, read on Biological and genetic characterization of Physostegia Chlorotic Mottle Virus in Europe based on host range, location and time. Published in Vol. 106, No. 11, 2022, from plant disease.

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