Recent developments in serological methods suited for use in routine testing for plant viruses


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Since the mid 1950s, there have been many developments in serological techniques for testing for plant viruses. Certain of these can provide great savings in time, labour and cost in routine testing situations and are well suited for use by advisory services, certification schemes and healthy stock programmes, statutory and quarantine authorities, and plant breeders. The recent developments are described under the headings flocculation in liquid media, gel diffusion, labelled antibodies and electron microscope serology, Flocculation tests depend on observation of aggregates formed in a liquid medium. The microprecipitin and chloropiast agglutination tests are simple forms which are still widely employed routinely. However, sensitivity is greatly improved by using flocculation tests in which antibodies are adsorbed to the surface of larger inert carrier particles, such as polystyrene latex spheres, tanned red blood cells or bentonite. Latex particles are the most widely used of these because they are easy to sensitise with antibodies, little antiserum is required and the sensitised latex can be stored for years without loss of activity. The latex test is also very simple to do, is well suited for routine checks on either small or large numbers of samples which can be grouped and can be used with many virus–crop combinations. Gel diffusion tests depend on observation of precipitin lines formed in an agar gel medium. They are of two main types, single (= simple) diffusion and double diffusion. Both can be used effectively with viruses which have isometric or ‘near isometric’ particles but not with those which have elongated particles because these do not diffuse readily through agar. Recent developments which involve breaking elongated particles into sub‐units or fragments which can diffuse through agar now permit gel diffusion to be applied with almost all viruses. Various treatments are useful in breaking particles, the most effective of which employ detergents or other disruptive chemicals such as pyridine, pyrrolidine and ethanolamine, However, although gel diffusion tests which incorporate one or other of these treatments have been employed routinely for testing for viruses in several different crops, such tests are relatively insensitive, require much antiserum and conditions must be carefully controlled to avoid formation of nonspecific precipitin lines. Antibodies can be labelled to make virus—antibody aggregates readily observable, or to obtain increased sensitivity in testing, or both. The only form of labelled antibody test widely employed in routine screening for plant viruses is enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), in which antibody is labelled with an enzyme and positive results are observed as an enzyme‐mediated colour reaction. Since its introduction to plant virology in 1976, ELISA has been very widely applied in situations where large numbers of either individual or grouped

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalPlant Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1981


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