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Genome-wide identification of WRKY family genes and their response to cold stress in Vitis vinifera

Lina Wang13, Wei Zhu13, Linchuan Fang13, Xiaoming Sun13, Lingye Su23, Zhenchang Liang2, Nian Wang12, Jason P Londo4, Shaohua Li12* and Haiping Xin12*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Plant Germplasm Enhancement and Specialty Agriculture, Wuhan Botanical Garden, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, PR China

2 Beijing Key Laboratory of Grape Sciences and Enology, Laboratory of Plant Resources, Institute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

4 United States Department of Agriculture‚ÄďAgriculture Research Service, Grape Genetics Research Unit, Geneva, NY, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2014, 14:103  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-103

Published: 22 April 2014



WRKY transcription factors are one of the largest families of transcriptional regulators in plants. WRKY genes are not only found to play significant roles in biotic and abiotic stress response, but also regulate growth and development. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) production is largely limited by stressful climate conditions such as cold stress and the role of WRKY genes in the survival of grapevine under these conditions remains unknown.


We identified a total of 59 VvWRKYs from the V. vinifera genome, belonging to four subgroups according to conserved WRKY domains and zinc-finger structure. The majority of VvWRKYs were expressed in more than one tissue among the 7 tissues examined which included young leaves, mature leaves, tendril, stem apex, root, young fruits and ripe fruits. Publicly available microarray data suggested that a subset of VvWRKYs was activated in response to diverse stresses. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) results demonstrated that the expression levels of 36 VvWRKYs are changed following cold exposure. Comparative analysis was performed on data from publicly available microarray experiments, previous global transcriptome analysis studies, and qRT-PCR. We identified 15 VvWRKYs in at least two of these databases which may relate to cold stress. Among them, the transcription of three genes can be induced by exogenous ABA application, suggesting that they can be involved in an ABA-dependent signaling pathway in response to cold stress.


We identified 59 VvWRKYs from the V. vinifera genome and 15 of them showed cold stress-induced expression patterns. These genes represented candidate genes for future functional analysis of VvWRKYs involved in the low temperature-related signal pathways in grape.

WRKY transcription factor family; Grapevine; Biotic and abiotic stress; Cold stress