Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) harbour a large dsRNA virus. The linear genome (14.7 kbp) of two isolates from Japanese and USA bell pepper cultivars were completely sequenced and compared. They shared extensive sequence identity and contained a single, long ORF encoding a 4815 aa protein. This polyprotein contained conserved motifs of putative viral methyltransferase (MTR), helicase 1 (Hel-1), UDP-glycosyltransferase and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. This unique arrangement of conserved domains has not been reported in any of the known endornaviruses. Hence this virus, for which the name Bell pepper endornavirus (BPEV) is proposed, is a distinct species in the genus Endornavirus (family Endornaviridae). The BPEVencoded polyprotein contains a cysteine-rich region between the MTR and Hel-1 domains, with conserved CXCC motifs shared among several endornaviruses, suggesting an additional functional domain. In agreement with general endornavirus features, BPEV contains a nick in the positive-strand RNA molecule. The virus was detected in all bell pepper cultivars tested and transmitted through seed but not by graft inoculations. Analysis of dsRNA patterns and RT-PCR using degenerate primers revealed putative variants of BPEV, or closely related species, infecting other C. annuum genotypes and three other Capsicum species (C. baccatum, C. chinense and C. frutescens).
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