Maize streak virus (MSV) contributes significantly to the problem of extremely low African maize yields. Whilst a diverse range of MSV and MSV-like viruses are endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and neighbouring islands, only a single group of maize-adapted variants - MSV subtypes A1 -A6 - causes severe enough disease in maize to influence yields substantially. In order to assist in designing effective strategies to control MSV in maize, a large survey covering 155 locations was conducted to assess the diversity, distribution and genetic characteristics of the Ugandan MSV-A population. PCR-restriction fragment-length polymorphism analyses of 391 virus isolates identified 49 genetic variants. Sixty-two full-genome sequences were determined, 52 of which were detectably recombinant. All but two recombinants contained predominantly MSV-A1-like sequences. Of the ten distinct recombination events observed, seven involved inter-MSV-A subtype recombination and three involved intra-MSV-A1 recombination. One of the intra-MSV-A1 recombinants, designated MSV-A1 UgIII, accounted for >60% of all MSV infections sampled throughout Uganda. Although recombination may be an important factor in the emergence of novel geminivirus variants, it is demonstrated that its characteristics in MSV are quite different from those observed in related African cassava-infecting geminivirus species.
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