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Apple hammerhead viroid-like RNA (AHVd RNA) has been reported in different apple cultivars and geographic regions and, considering the presence of hammerhead ribozymes in both polarity strands, suspected to be either a viroid of the family Avsunviroidae or a viroid-like satellite RNA. Here we report that dimeric head-to-tail in vitro transcripts of a 433-nt reference variant of AHVd RNA from cultivar "Pacific Gala" are infectious when mechanically inoculated to apple, thus showing that this RNA is a bona fide viroid for which we have kept the name apple hammerhead viroid (AHVd) until its pathogenicity, if any, is better assessed. By combining thermodynamics-based predictions with co-variation analyses of the natural genetic diversity found in AHVd we have inferred the most likely conformations for both AHVd polarity strands in vivo, with that of the (+) polarity strand being stabilized by a kissing loop-interaction similar to those reported in peach latent mosaic viroid and chrysathemum chlorotic mottle viroid, the two known members of the genus Pelamoviroid (family Avsunviroidae). Therefore, AHVd RNA fulfills the biological and molecular criteria to be allocated to this genus, the members of which, intriguingly, display low global sequence identity but high structural conservation.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Virus research
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