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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Berry skin development in Norton grape: Distinct patterns of transcriptional regulation and flavonoid biosynthesis

Mohammad B Ali14, Susanne Howard1, Shangwu Chen3, Yechun Wang2, Oliver Yu2, Laszlo G Kovacs1 and Wenping Qiu1*

Author affiliations

1 Center for Grapevine Biotechnology, William H. Darr School of Agriculture, Missouri State University, Mountain Grove, MO 65711, USA

2 The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO 63132, USA

3 College of Food Sciences and Nutritional Engineering, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, PR China

4 Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-7

Published: 10 January 2011

Abstract

Background

The complex and dynamic changes during grape berry development have been studied in Vitis vinifera, but little is known about these processes in other Vitis species. The grape variety 'Norton', with a major portion of its genome derived from Vitis aestivalis, maintains high levels of malic acid and phenolic acids in the ripening berries in comparison with V. vinifera varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Furthermore, Norton berries develop a remarkably high level of resistance to most fungal pathogens while Cabernet Sauvignon berries remain susceptible to those pathogens. The distinct characteristics of Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon merit a comprehensive analysis of transcriptional regulation and metabolite pathways.

Results

A microarray study was conducted on transcriptome changes of Norton berry skin during the period of 37 to 127 days after bloom, which represents berry developmental phases from herbaceous growth to full ripeness. Samples of six berry developmental stages were collected. Analysis of the microarray data revealed that a total of 3,352 probe sets exhibited significant differences at transcript levels, with two-fold changes between at least two developmental stages. Expression profiles of defense-related genes showed a dynamic modulation of nucleotide-binding site-leucine-rich repeat (NBS-LRR) resistance genes and pathogenesis-related (PR) genes during berry development. Transcript levels of PR-1 in Norton berry skin clearly increased during the ripening phase. As in other grapevines, genes of the phenylpropanoid pathway were up-regulated in Norton as the berry developed. The most noticeable was the steady increase of transcript levels of stilbene synthase genes. Transcriptional patterns of six MYB transcription factors and eleven structural genes of the flavonoid pathway and profiles of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins (PAs) during berry skin development were analyzed comparatively in Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon. Transcriptional patterns of MYB5A and MYB5B were similar during berry development between the two varieties, but those of MYBPA1 and MYBPA2 were strikingly different, demonstrating that the general flavonoid pathways are regulated under different MYB factors. The data showed that there were higher transcript levels of the genes encoding flavonoid-3'-O-hydroxylase (F3'H), flavonoid-3',5'-hydroxylase (F3'5'H), leucoanthocyanidin dioxygenase (LDOX), UDP-glucose:flavonoid 3'-O-glucosyltransferase (UFGT), anthocyanidin reductase (ANR), leucoanthocyanidin reductase (LAR) 1 and LAR2 in berry skin of Norton than in those of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was also found that the total amount of anthocyanins was markedly higher in Norton than in Cabernet Sauvignon berry skin at harvest, and five anthocyanin derivatives and three PA compounds exhibited distinctive accumulation patterns in Norton berry skin.

Conclusions

This study provides an overview of the transcriptome changes and the flavonoid profiles in the berry skin of Norton, an important North American wine grape, during berry development. The steady increase of transcripts of PR-1 and stilbene synthase genes likely contributes to the developmentally regulated resistance during ripening of Norton berries. More studies are required to address the precise role of each stilbene synthase gene in berry development and disease resistance. Transcriptional regulation of MYBA1, MYBA2, MYB5A and MYBPA1 as well as expression levels of their putative targets F3'H, F3'5'H, LDOX, UFGT, ANR, LAR1, and LAR2 are highly correlated with the characteristic anthocyanin and PA profiles in Norton berry skin. These results reveal a unique pattern of the regulation of transcription and biosynthesis pathways underlying the viticultural and enological characteristics of Norton grape, and yield new insights into the understanding of the flavonoid pathway in non-vinifera grape varieties.