The results of several experiments concerning the presence and composition of alkaloids in different tissues (stems, leaves, roots) of Catharanthus roseus L. plants and explants, healthy and infected by clover phyllody phytoplasmas, are reported. The alkaloids extracted and determined by the reverse phase high-pressure liquid chromatography were vindoline, ajmalicine, serpentine, vinblastine, and vincristine. The total alkaloid concentration was higher in infected plants than in the controls, in particular the increase of vinblastine in infected roots was very significant. The ultrastructural observations of infected roots showed alterations of the cell walls and of the nuclei. These results demonstrate that phytoplasmas, detected in all infected tissues by light fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy, play an important role on secondary metabolism of the diseased plants, modifying both the total content of alkaloids and their ratio.
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