Biological differences and molecular variability between six phenotypically distinct tobacco-infecting geminivirus isolates from southern Africa (Zimbabwe) and Mexico were investigated. Host range studies conducted with tobacco virus isolates ZIM H from Zimbabwe and MEX 15 and MEX 32 from Mexico indicated all had narrow host ranges restricted to the Solanaceae. Alignment of coat protein gene (CP) and common region (CR) sequences obtained by PCR, and phylogenetic analysis of the CP sequences indicated Zimbabwean isolates were distantly related to those from Mexico and that geographically proximal isolates shared their closest affinities with Old and New World geminiviruses, respectively. Zimbabwean isolates formed a distinct cluster of closely related variants (>98% sequence identity) of the same species, while MEX 15 segregated independently from MEX 32, the former constituting a distinct species among New World geminiviruses, and the latter being a variant, Texas pepper virus-Chiapas isolate (TPV-CPS) with 95% sequence identity to TPV-TAM. Results collectively indicated a geographic basis for phylogenetic relationships rather than a specific affiliation with tobacco as a natural host. MEX 15 is provisionally described as a new begomovirus, tobacco apical stunt virus, TbASV, whose closest CP relative is cabbage leaf curl virus, and ZIM isolates are provisionally designated as tobacco leaf curl virus, TbLCV-ZIM, a new Eastern Hemisphere begomovirus, which has as its closest relative, chayote mosaic virus from Nigeria.
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