The spread of Tomato yellow leaf curl virus from the Middle East to the world

Author Summary Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) poses a serious threat to tomato production throughout the temperate regions of the world. Our analysis, using a suite of bioinformatic tools applied to all publically available TYLCV genome sequences, suggests that the virus probably arose somewhere in the Middle East between the 1930s and 1950s and that its global spread only began in the 1980s after the emergence of two strains - TYLCV-Mld and -IL. In agreement with others, we also find that the highly invasive TYLCV-IL strain has jumped at least twice to the Americas - once from the Mediterranean basin in the early 1990s and once from Asia in the early 2000s. Although our results corroborate historical accounts of TYLCV-like symptoms in tomato crops in the Jordan Valley in the late 1920s, they indicate that the region around Iran is both the current center of TYLCV diversity and is the site where the most intensive ongoing TYLCV evolution is taking place. However, our analysis indicates that this region is epidemiologically isolated suggesting that novel TYLCV variants found there are probably not direct global threats. Moreover, we identify the Mediterranean basin as the main launch-pad of global TYLCV movements.