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South African Journal of Science

Print version ISSN 0038-2353

Abstract

WALTER, Cheryl T. et al. Characterization of a succession of small insect viruses in a wild South African population of Nudaurelia cytherea capensis (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae). S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2008, vol.104, n.3-4, pp. 147-152. ISSN 0038-2353.

The Tetraviridae are a family of small insect RNA viruses first discovered in South Africa some 40 years ago. They consist of one or two single-stranded (+) RNAs encapsidated in an icosahedral capsid of approximately 40 nm in diameter, with T = 4 symmetry. The type members of the two genera within this family, Nudaurelia β virus (NβV) and Nudaurelia ω virus (NωV), infect Nudaurelia cytherea capensis (pine emperor moth) larvae. The absence of N. capensis laboratory colonies and tissue culture cell lines susceptible to virus infection have limited research on the biology of NβV and NωV because the availability of infectious virus is dependent upon sporadic outbreaks in the wild N. capensis populations. In September 2002, dead and dying N. capensis larvae exhibiting symptoms similar to those reported previously in other tetravirus infections were observed in a wild population in a pine forest in the Western Cape province of South Africa. We report here the isolation of three small insect viruses from this population over a period of three years. Transmission electron microscopy and serological characterization indicate that all three are tetra-like virus isolates. One isolate was shown by cDNA sequence analysis to be NβV, which was thought to have been extinct since 1985. The two other isolates are likely new tetraviruses, designated Nudaurelia ψ virus (NψV) and Nudaurelia ζ virus (NζV), which are morphologically and serologically related to NωV and NβV, respectively.

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