Maize streak disease (MSD) is one of the most significant biotic constraints on the production of Africa’s most important cereal crop. Until recently, the only virus known to cause severe MSD was the A-strain of maize streak virus (MSV/A), a member of the genus Mastrevirus, family Geminiviridae. However, over the past decade, two other mastreviruses, MSV/C and maize streak Réunion virus (MSRV), have been repeatedly found in the absence of MSV/A in maize plants displaying severe MSD symptoms. Here, we report on infectious clones of MSV/C and MSRV and test their ability to cause severe MSD symptoms. Although cloned MSV/C and MSRV genomes could cause systemic symptomatic infections in MSD-sensitive maize genotypes, these infections yielded substantially milder symptoms than those observed in the field. The MSV/C and MSRV isolates that we have examined are therefore unlikely to cause severe MSD on their own. Furthermore, mixed infections of MSRV and MSV/C with other mild MSV strains also consistently yielded mild MSD symptoms. It is noteworthy that MSRV produces distinctive striate symptoms in maize that are similar in pattern, albeit not in severity, to those seen in the field, showing that this virus may contribute to the severe MSD symptoms seen in the field. Therefore, despite not fulfilling Koch’s postulates for MSV/C and MSRV as causal agents of severe MSD, we cannot exclude the possibility that these viruses could be contributing to currently emerging maize diseases.
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