Chickpea chlorotic stunt virus (CpCSV), a proposed new member of the genus Polerovirus (family Luteoviridae), has been reported only from Ethiopia. In attempts to determine the geographical distribution and variability of CpCSV, a pair of degenerate primers derived from conserved domains of the luteovirus coat protein (CP) gene was used for RT-PCR analysis of various legume samples originating from five countries and containing unidentified luteoviruses. Sequencing of the amplicons provided evidence for the occurrence of CpCSV also in Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Syria. Phylogenetic analysis of the CP nucleotide sequences of 18 samples from the five countries revealed the existence of two geographic groups of CpCSV isolates differing in CP sequences by 8 - 10%. Group I included isolates from Ethiopia and Sudan while group II comprised those from Egypt, Morocco and Syria. For distinguishing these two groups, a simple RFLP test using HindIII and/or PvuII for cleavage of CP genederived PCR products was developed. In ELISA and immunoelectron microscopy, however, isolates of both groups could not be distinguished with rabbit antisera raised against a group-I isolate from Ethiopia (CpCSV-Eth) and a group-II isolate from Syria (CpCSV-Sy). Since none of the 10 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that had been produced earlier against CpCSV-Eth reacted with group-II isolates, further MAbs were produced. Of the seven MAbs raised against CpCSV-Sy, two reacted only with CpCSV-Sy and two others with both CpCSV-Sy and -Eth. This indicated that there are group I- and IIspecific and common (species-specific) epitopes on the CpCSV CP and that the corresponding MAbs are suitable for specific detection and discrimination of CpCSV isolates. Moreover, CpCSV-Sy (group II) caused more severe stunting and yellowing in faba bean than CpCSV-Eth (group I). In conclusion, our data indicate the existence of a geographically associated variation in the molecular, serological and presumably biological properties of CpCSV.