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Pinot Noir Genome Sequenced

French and Italian workers, part of the Public Consortium for Grapevine Genome Characterization, have published the complete genome sequence of Vitis vinifera using an inbred Pinot Noir strain. The Pinot Noir cultivate used is not the same as you will find in a bottle, but is inbred or simplified to lose replicated genes and achieve high homozygosity so the sequence could be pieced together. The grapevine’s DNA was found to contain 30,434 genes that carry instructions to make the vine.

The researchers found that compared to other flowering plants, grapevines have twice as many genes linked to production of enzymes associated with aromas. Terpene synthases (TPSs) are responsible for the tannins and oils that create aromas in the grapevine. The other three plants that have been sequenced have between 30 and 40 genes to makes these syntheses; the grapevine has 89 functional TPS genes and 27 pseudogenes. 13 distinct genes were found responsible for Pinot Noir’s distinctive flavors. This would indicate that the variety of aromas and flavors found in wines are closely allied with the genomics of the grapevine.

Grapevines also have more of the genes that produce resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine associated with the health benefits of moderate consumption of red wine. Stilbene synthase enzymes (STSs), responsible for the synthesis of resveratrol, were represented by a hugely inflated number of genes (43 STS genes, of which at least 20 are active).

The information may lead to several practical applications. Vintners may be able to trace specific aromas and flavors to certain genes and add or subtract important characteristics to their final wines. In addition, this research may lead to the development of grapevine cultivars that are resistant to diseases that commonly afflict grapevines such as mildew, fungus and other pests.

The full report will be published in Nature in a few weeks. The online published letter is at www.nature.com.

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