Detection and characterization of phytoplasmas infecting ornamental and weed plants in Iran.
During field surveys in 2004, ornamental and weed plants showing symptoms resembling those caused by phytoplasmas were observed in Mahallat (central Iran). These plants were examined for phytoplasma infections by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays using universal phytoplasma primers directed to ribosomal DNA (rDNA). All affected plants gave positive results. The detected phytoplasmas were characterized and differentiated through restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and sequence analysis of PCR-amplified rDNA. The phytoplasmas detected in diseased Asclepias curassavica and Celosia argentea were identified as members of clover proliferation phytoplasma group (16SrVI group) whereas those from the remaining plants examined proved to be members of aster yellow phytoplasma group (16SrI group) ('Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris'). In particular, following digestion with AluI, HaeIII and HhaI endonucleases, the phytoplasma detected in Limonium sinuatum showed restriction profiles identical to subgroup 16SrI-C; phytoplasmas from Gomphocarpus physocarpus, Tanacetum parthenium, Lactuca serriola, Tagetes patula and Coreopsis lanceolata had the same restriction profiles as subgroup 16SrI-B whereas Catharanthus roseus- and Rudbeckia hirta-infecting phytoplasmas showed restriction patterns of subgroup 16SrI-A. This is the first report on the occurrence of phytoplasma diseases of ornamental plants in Iran.