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Plum Pox Virus Detection

The PPV Lab at NYSAES works in conjunction with NYSDAM and USDA-APHIS to screen New York State Prunus trees for the presence of Plum plum virus (PPV).  On a daily basis, the PPV Lab in Geneva tests approximately 2,500 to 3,000 leaf samples.

Excision of leaf tissue from orchard or
homeowner samples to be processed
for PPV by ELISA.
Adding Buffer
Grinding buffer is added to samples.

Upon delivery at NYSAES, leaf samples are unpacked, scanned into a database and tracked by a barcode assigned to them by the collection team.  Duplicate barcode labels are then printed and stored with the samples in a cold room until processing.

Leaf samples are stacked with the petioles aligned and 0.5 grams of tissue is cut from the base of the leaves, avoiding petioles and midribs.  Leaf tissue weights are checked every 10 samples or whenever leaf types change or a new Prunus species is tested.

Excised leaf material is placed in a plastic bag, which is labeled with the corresponding barcode.  Grinding buffer (5 ml) is added to the bag and the sample is ground with a tissue homogenizer.  Crude leaf extracts are then tested for PPV by Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA) in microtiter plates using specific antibodies.

Leaf Grinder
Grinding leaf samples with a tissue homogenizer
Leaf Grinder
A sample prior to grinding (left) and a ground sample (right).

Remaining leaf material is stored in a cold room until the sample has gone through the entire ELISA procedure with no indication of PPV infection. 

For ELISA, microtiter plates consist of 96 wells, 6 of which are designated as controls (positive, i.e. PPV-infected material, negative, i.e. healthy plant material, and grinding buffer).  Every sample is replicated, so that a total of 45 samples can be run on one microtiter plate.

ELISA plates
A microtiter ELISA plate loaded with ground leaf samples (top) and showing a colorimetric reaction for PPV-infected samples (bottom).
Loading Diagram
A loading diagram (left) and the corresponding microtiter plate (right).

Sample testing is a three-day process. 
On the first day, 96-well microtiter plates are coated with an antibody specific to PPV and incubated overnight in a cold room, allowing the antibodies to adhere to the surface of the wells. 

On the second day, microtiter plates are rinsed, loaded with ground leaf samples, and incubated overnight in a cold room.  If PPV is present in the leaf sample to be tested, virus particles will adhere to the antibodies coated on the microtiter plate wells. 

On the third day, microtiter plates are rinsed and treated with an antibody specific to PPV that has an enzyme tag.  If the coating antibody captured PPV, the second antibody will adhere to it, sandwiching the PPV particle between the two antibodies.  Microtiter plates are rinsed and a solution that colorimetrically reacts with the enzyme tag on the secondary antibody is added.  After one hour of incubation in the dark, any well, in which the virus is present, will turn yellow.  In contrast, wells that do not contain the virus will remain colorless.  Plates are scanned on a microplate reader and any sample that reads 2.0 times higher than the negative control is flagged as a positive suspect.  An overview of the ELISA procedure is illustrated below.

Loading Diagram
(1) Coating antibody specific to PPV adheres to microtiter plate wells. 
(2) Ground leaf material is added and virus particles, if present, adhere
to antibodies. 
(3) Antibody with an enzyme tag is added.
(4) Substrate reactive with enzyme added. 
(5) Color develops.


Test reports with the status of samples assayed are filed with NYSDAM and USDA-APHIS on a weekly basis.  If the PPV Lab at NYSAES identifies a positive suspect, NYSDAM and USDA-APHIS are immediately notified.  In that case, remaining leaf tissue of the suspect sample will be shipped to the National Plant Germplasm and Biotechnology Laboratory, USDA-APHIS, in Beltsville, MD for confirmation.  Concurrently, NYSDAM or USDA-APHIS will re-sample to corresponding tree that is suspect, as well as neighboring trees.  If leaf re-samples are found infected by PPV, the grower or homeowner will be contacted directly by NYSDAM and USDA-APHIS for removal of infected trees.