Jay-Vee S. Mendoza, Fe M. dela Cueva, Cris Q. Cortaga, Anand Noel C. Manohar, Roanne R. Gardoce, Grace C. Lachica, Maricel C. Gonzales, John E. Thomas, Darlon V. Lantican

Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) is an important disease of banana in the Philippines and in other banana-producing countries. This study was conducted to investigate the genetic structure and diversity of Philippine BBTV isolates which remain unexplored in the country. BBTV-infected plant tissues were sampled from banana-growing provinces (i.e., Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon, Palawan, Cebu, Leyte, and Davao del Sur) and the partial DNA-R gene of BBTV was sequenced. Analysis of all local BBTV isolates showed a nucleotide diversity (π) of 0.00721, average number of nucleotide differences (k) of 5.51984, and haplotype diversity (hd) of 0.971. Neutrality tests using Fu’s Fs and Tajima’s D showed significant and highly negative values which suggest an excess number of rare alleles due to recent population expansion or from genetic hitchhiking. Haplotype network and phylogenetic analyses revealed that the local BBTV isolates were closely related to Southeast Asian (SEA) group and exhibited a monophyletic clade with distinct haplotype grouping from other SEA sequences. However, some Indonesian and Indian reference sequences were also clustered within the Philippine BBTV group suggesting sequence homology. Results also showed that the local BBTV isolates may be categorized into three major haplotype groups (HA, HB, and HC) but only the HC group remained distinct upon comparison with other Philippine and SEA reference sequences. BBTV isolates from Quezon were the most diverse while isolates from Palawan displayed low genetic diversity indices and belonged only in the HC group. The assessment of the degree of variability among Philippine BBTV isolates will provide a reference towards the development of high-throughput BBTV detection systems as well as enable to devise plant breeding strategies to manage the current BBTV spread and variations.

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