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Review article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Begomovirus disease complex: emerging threat to vegetable production systems of West and Central Africa

Leke, Walter Nkeabeng; Mignouna, Djana B.; Brown, Judith; Kvarnheden, Anders


Vegetables play a major role in the livelihoods of the rural poor in Africa. Among major constraints to vegetable production worldwide are diseases caused by a group of viruses belonging to the genus Begomovirus, family Geminiviridae. Begomoviruses are plant-infecting viruses, which are transmitted by the whitefly vector Bemisia tabaci and have been known to cause extreme yield reduction in a number of economically important vegetables around the world. Several begomoviruses have been detected infecting vegetable crops in West and Central Africa (WCA). Small single stranded circular molecules, alphasatellites and betasatellites, which are about half the size of their helper begomovirus genome, have also been detected in plants infected by begomoviruses. In WCA, B. tabaci has been associated with suspected begomovirus infections in many vegetable crops and weed species. Sequencing of viral genomes from crops such as okra resulted in the identification of two previously known begomovirus species (Cotton leaf curl Gezira virus and Okra yellow crinkle virus) as well as a new recombinant begomovirus species (Okra leaf curl Cameroon virus), a betasatellite (Cotton leaf curl Gezira betasatellite) and new alphasatellites. Tomato and pepper plants with leaf curling were shown to contain isolates of new begomoviruses, collectively referred to as West African tomato-infecting begomoviruses (WATIBs), new alphasatellites and betasatellites. To study the potential of weeds serving as begomovirus reservoirs, begomoviruses and satellites in the weed Ageratum conyzoides were characterized. Sequence analyses showed that they were infected by isolates of a new begomovirus (Ageratum leaf curl Cameroon virus) that belong to the WATIBs group, a new betasatellite (Ageratum leaf curl Cameroon betasatellite), an alphasatellite and two types of defective recombinants between a begomovirus and an alphasatellite. Putative recombinations were detected in begomovirus genomes for all four plant species studied, indicating that recombination is an important mechanism for their evolution. A close relationship between the begomoviruses infecting pepper and tomato and A. conyzoides and the detection of the same alphasatellite in them support the idea that weeds are important reservoirs for begomoviruses and their satellites. With this high diversity, recombination potential and transmission by B. tabaci, begomoviruses and ssDNA satellites pose a serious threat to crop production in West and Central Africa.


Begomoviruses; Okra leaf curl disease; Whitefly; Tomato leaf curl disease; West and Central Africa; Viral satellites

Published in

Agriculture and Food Security
2015, Volume: 4, article number: 1

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