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Open Access Research article

Grafting with rootstocks induces extensive transcriptional re-programming in the shoot apical meristem of grapevine

Sarah Jane Cookson and Nathalie Ollat*

Author Affiliations

INRA, ISVV, EGFV, UMR 1287, Villenave d’Ornon, F-33140, France

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:147  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-147

Published: 2 October 2013



Grafting is widely used in the agriculture of fruit-bearing crops; rootstocks are known to confer differences in scion biomass in addition to improving other traits of agricultural interest. However, little is known about the effect of rootstocks on scion gene expression. The objective of this study was to determine whether hetero-grafting the grapevine variety Vitis vinifera cv. 'Cabernet Sauvignon N’ with two different rootstocks alters gene expression in the shoot apex in comparison to the auto-grafted control. Cabernet Sauvignon was hetero-grafted with two commercial rootstock genotypes and auto-grafted with itself. Vigor was quantified by measurements of root, stem, leaf and trunk biomass. Gene expression profiling was done using a whole genome grapevine microarray; four pools of five shoot apex samples were harvested 4 months after grafting for each scion/rootstock combination.


The rootstocks increased stem biomass or conferred increased vigor by the end of the first growth cycle. Globally hetero-grafting two different genotypes together triggered an increase in shoot apex gene expression; however no genes were differentially expressed between the two hetero-grafts. The functional categories related to DNA, chromatin structure, histones, flavonoids and leucine rich repeat containing receptor kinases were the most enriched in the up-regulated genes in the shoot apex of hetero-grafted plants.


The choice of rootstock genotype had little effect on the gene expression in the shoot apex; this could suggest that auto- and hetero-grafting was the major factor regulating gene expression.