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author:("zanoni, Sara")
1.  Transcriptomic analysis of the late stages of grapevine (Vitis vinifera cv. Cabernet Sauvignon) berry ripening reveals significant induction of ethylene signaling and flavor pathways in the skin 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):370.
Grapevine berry, a nonclimacteric fruit, has three developmental stages; the last one is when berry color and sugar increase. Flavors derived from terpenoid and fatty acid metabolism develop at the very end of this ripening stage. The transcriptomic response of pulp and skin of Cabernet Sauvignon berries in the late stages of ripening between 22 and 37 °Brix was assessed using whole-genome micorarrays.
The transcript abundance of approximately 18,000 genes changed with °Brix and tissue type. There were a large number of changes in many gene ontology (GO) categories involving metabolism, signaling and abiotic stress. GO categories reflecting tissue differences were overrepresented in photosynthesis, isoprenoid metabolism and pigment biosynthesis. Detailed analysis of the interaction of the skin and pulp with °Brix revealed that there were statistically significantly higher abundances of transcripts changing with °Brix in the skin that were involved in ethylene signaling, isoprenoid and fatty acid metabolism. Many transcripts were peaking around known optimal fruit stages for flavor production. The transcript abundance of approximately two-thirds of the AP2/ERF superfamily of transcription factors changed during these developmental stages. The transcript abundance of a unique clade of ERF6-type transcription factors had the largest changes in the skin and clustered with genes involved in ethylene, senescence, and fruit flavor production including ACC oxidase, terpene synthases, and lipoxygenases. The transcript abundance of important transcription factors involved in fruit ripening was also higher in the skin.
A detailed analysis of the transcriptome dynamics during late stages of ripening of grapevine berries revealed that these berries went through massive transcriptional changes in gene ontology categories involving chemical signaling and metabolism in both the pulp and skin, particularly in the skin. Changes in the transcript abundance of genes involved in the ethylene signaling pathway of this nonclimacteric fruit were statistically significant in the late stages of ripening when the production of transcripts for important flavor and aroma compounds were at their highest. Ethylene transcription factors known to play a role in leaf senescence also appear to play a role in fruit senescence. Ethylene may play a bigger role than previously thought in this non-climacteric fruit.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0370-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312598  PMID: 25524329
Ethylene; Fruit ripening; Grape; Microarray; Vitis vinifera L
2.  The plasticity of the grapevine berry transcriptome 
Genome Biology  2013;14(6):r54.
Phenotypic plasticity refers to the range of phenotypes a single genotype can express as a function of its environment. These phenotypic variations are attributable to the effect of the environment on the expression and function of genes influencing plastic traits. We investigated phenotypic plasticity in grapevine by comparing the berry transcriptome in a single clone of the vegetatively-propagated common grapevine species Vitis vinifera cultivar Corvina through 3 consecutive growth years cultivated in 11 different vineyards in the Verona area of Italy.
Most of the berry transcriptome clustered by year of growth rather than common environmental conditions or viticulture practices, and transcripts related to secondary metabolism showed high sensitivity towards different climates, as confirmed also by metabolomic data obtained from the same samples. When analyzed in 11 vineyards during 1 growth year, the environmentally-sensitive berry transcriptome comprised 5% of protein-coding genes and 18% of the transcripts modulated during berry development. Plastic genes were particularly enriched in ontology categories such as transcription factors, translation, transport, and secondary metabolism. Specific plastic transcripts were associated with groups of vineyards sharing common viticulture practices or environmental conditions, and plastic transcriptome reprogramming was more intense in the year characterized by extreme weather conditions. We also identified a set of genes that lacked plasticity, showing either constitutive expression or similar modulation in all berries.
Our data reveal candidate genes potentially responsible for the phenotypic plasticity of grapevine and provide the first step towards the characterization of grapevine transcriptome plasticity under different agricultural systems.
PMCID: PMC3706941  PMID: 23759170
Phenotypic plasticity; Transcriptome; Grapevine
3.  The Signatures of Selection for Translational Accuracy in Plant Genes 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(6):1117-1126.
Little is known about the natural selection of synonymous codons within the coding sequences of plant genes. We analyzed the distribution of synonymous codons within plant coding sequences and found that preferred codons tend to encode the more conserved and functionally important residues of plant proteins. This was consistent among several synonymous codon families and applied to genes with different expression profiles and functions. Most of the randomly chosen alternative sets of codons scored weaker associations than the actual sets of preferred codons, suggesting that codon position within plant genes and codon usage bias have coevolved to maximize translational accuracy. All these findings are consistent with the mistranslation-induced protein misfolding theory, which predicts the natural selection of highly preferred codons more frequently at sites where translation errors could compromise protein folding or functionality. Our results will provide an important insight in future studies of protein folding, molecular evolution, and transgene design for optimal expression.
PMCID: PMC3698923  PMID: 23695187
coding sequences evolution; codon bias; constrained sites
4.  Genome-Wide Analysis of the Expansin Gene Superfamily Reveals Grapevine-Specific Structural and Functional Characteristics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62206.
Expansins are proteins that loosen plant cell walls in a pH-dependent manner, probably by increasing the relative movement among polymers thus causing irreversible expansion. The expansin superfamily (EXP) comprises four distinct families: expansin A (EXPA), expansin B (EXPB), expansin-like A (EXLA) and expansin-like B (EXLB). There is experimental evidence that EXPA and EXPB proteins are required for cell expansion and developmental processes involving cell wall modification, whereas the exact functions of EXLA and EXLB remain unclear. The complete grapevine (Vitis vinifera) genome sequence has allowed the characterization of many gene families, but an exhaustive genome-wide analysis of expansin gene expression has not been attempted thus far.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We identified 29 EXP superfamily genes in the grapevine genome, representing all four EXP families. Members of the same EXP family shared the same exon–intron structure, and phylogenetic analysis confirmed a closer relationship between EXP genes from woody species, i.e. grapevine and poplar (Populus trichocarpa), compared to those from Arabidopsis thaliana and rice (Oryza sativa). We also identified grapevine-specific duplication events involving the EXLB family. Global gene expression analysis confirmed a strong correlation among EXP genes expressed in mature and green/vegetative samples, respectively, as reported for other gene families in the recently-published grapevine gene expression atlas. We also observed the specific co-expression of EXLB genes in woody organs, and the involvement of certain grapevine EXP genes in berry development and post-harvest withering.
Our comprehensive analysis of the grapevine EXP superfamily confirmed and extended current knowledge about the structural and functional characteristics of this gene family, and also identified properties that are currently unique to grapevine expansin genes. Our data provide a model for the functional characterization of grapevine gene families by combining phylogenetic analysis with global gene expression profiling.
PMCID: PMC3628503  PMID: 23614035
5.  Selective defoliation affects plant growth, fruit transcriptional ripening program and flavonoid metabolism in grapevine 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:30.
The selective removal of grapevine leaves around berry clusters can improve the quality of ripening fruits by influencing parameters such as the berry sugar and anthocyanin content at harvest. The outcome depends strongly on the timing of defoliation, which influences the source–sink balance and the modified microclimate surrounding the berries. We removed the basal leaves from Vitis vinifera L. cv Sangiovese shoots at the pre-bloom and veraison stages, and investigated responses such as shoot growth, fruit morphology and composition compared to untreated controls. Moreover, we performed a genome-wide expression analysis to explore the impact of these defoliation treatments on berry transcriptome.
We found that pre-bloom defoliation improved berry quality traits such as sugar and anthocyanin content, whereas defoliation at veraison had a detrimental effect, e.g. less anthocyanin and higher incidence of sunburn damage. Genome-wide expression analysis during berry ripening revealed that defoliation at either stage resulted in major transcriptome reprogramming, which slightly delayed the onset of ripening. However, a closer investigation of individual gene expression profiles identified genes that were specifically modulated by defoliation at each stage, reflecting the uncoupling of metabolic processes such as flavonoid biosynthesis, cell wall and stress metabolism, from the general ripening program.
The specific transcriptional modifications we observed following defoliation at different time points allow the identification of the developmental or metabolic processes affected in berries thus deepening the knowledge of the mechanisms by which these agronomical practices impact the final berry ripening traits.
PMCID: PMC3599245  PMID: 23433030
Vitis vinifera; Defoliation; Berry ripening; Transcriptome; Flavonoid; Source-sink balance
6.  De novo transcriptome characterization of Vitis vinifera cv. Corvina unveils varietal diversity 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:41.
Plants such as grapevine (Vitis spp.) display significant inter-cultivar genetic and phenotypic variation. The genetic components underlying phenotypic diversity in grapevine must be understood in order to disentangle genetic and environmental factors.
We have shown that cDNA sequencing by RNA-seq is a robust approach for the characterization of varietal diversity between a local grapevine cultivar (Corvina) and the PN40024 reference genome. We detected 15,161 known genes including 9463 with novel splice isoforms, and identified 2321 potentially novel protein-coding genes in non-annotated or unassembled regions of the reference genome. We also discovered 180 apparent private genes in the Corvina genome which were missing from the reference genome.
The de novo assembly approach allowed a substantial amount of the Corvina transcriptome to be reconstructed, improving known gene annotations by robustly defining gene structures, annotating splice isoforms and detecting genes without annotations. The private genes we discovered are likely to be nonessential but could influence certain cultivar-specific characteristics. Therefore, the application of de novo transcriptome assembly should not be restricted to species lacking a reference genome because it can also improve existing reference genome annotations and identify novel, cultivar-specific genes.
PMCID: PMC3556335  PMID: 23331995
Transcriptomics; RNA-Seq; de novo assembly; Grape; Varietal diversity
7.  Genome-wide analysis of the grapevine stilbene synthase multigenic family: genomic organization and expression profiles upon biotic and abiotic stresses 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:130.
Plant stilbenes are a small group of phenylpropanoids, which have been detected in at least 72 unrelated plant species and accumulate in response to biotic and abiotic stresses such as infection, wounding, UV-C exposure and treatment with chemicals. Stilbenes are formed via the phenylalanine/polymalonate-route, the last step of which is catalyzed by the enzyme stilbene synthase (STS), a type III polyketide synthase (PKS). Stilbene synthases are closely related to chalcone synthases (CHS), the key enzymes of the flavonoid pathway, as illustrated by the fact that both enzymes share the same substrates. To date, STSs have been cloned from peanut, pine, sorghum and grapevine, the only stilbene-producing fruiting-plant for which the entire genome has been sequenced. Apart from sorghum, STS genes appear to exist as a family of closely related genes in these other plant species.
In this study a complete characterization of the STS multigenic family in grapevine has been performed, commencing with the identification, annotation and phylogenetic analysis of all members and integration of this information with a comprehensive set of gene expression analyses including healthy tissues at differential developmental stages and in leaves exposed to both biotic (downy mildew infection) and abiotic (wounding and UV-C exposure) stresses. At least thirty-three full length sequences encoding VvSTS genes were identified, which, based on predicted amino acid sequences, cluster in 3 principal groups designated A, B and C. The majority of VvSTS genes cluster in groups B and C and are located on chr16 whereas the few gene family members in group A are found on chr10. Microarray and mRNA-seq expression analyses revealed different patterns of transcript accumulation between the different groups of VvSTS family members and between VvSTSs and VvCHSs. Indeed, under certain conditions the transcriptional response of VvSTS and VvCHS genes appears to be diametrically opposed suggesting that flow of carbon between these two competing metabolic pathways is tightly regulated at the transcriptional level.
This study represents an overview of the expression pattern of each member of the STS gene family in grapevine under both constitutive and stress-induced conditions. The results strongly indicate the existence of a transcriptional subfunctionalization amongst VvSTSs and provide the foundation for further functional investigations about the role and evolution of this large gene family. Moreover, it represents the first study to clearly show the differential regulation of VvCHS and VvSTS genes, suggesting the involvement of transcription factors (TFs) in both the activation and repression of these genes.
PMCID: PMC3433347  PMID: 22863370
Stilbene synthase; Chalcone synthase; Abiotic stress; Downy mildew; Grapevine
8.  PhEXPA1, a Petunia hybrida expansin, is involved in cell wall metabolism and in plant architecture specification 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(12):2031-2034.
Expansins are wall-loosening proteins that induce wall stress relaxation and irreversible wall extension in a pH-dependent manner. Despite a substantial body of work has been performed on the characterization of many expansins genes in different plant species, the knowledge about their precise biological roles during plant development remains scarce. To yield insights into the expansion process in Petunia hybrida, PhEXPA1, an expansin gene preferentially expressed in petal limb, has been characterized. The constitutive overexpression of PhEXPA1 significantly increased expansin activity, cells size and organ dimensions. Moreover, 35S::PhEXPA1 transgenic plants exhibited an altered cell wall polymer composition and a precocious timing of axillary meristem development compared with wild-type plants. These findings supported a previous hypothesis that expansins are not merely structural proteins involved in plant cell wall metabolism but they also take part in many plant development processes. Here, to support this expansins dual role, we discuss about differential cell wall-related genes expressed in PhEXPA1 expression mutants and gradients of altered petunia branching pattern.
PMCID: PMC3337199  PMID: 22105031
axillary meristem; branching pattern; cell expansion; cell wall; Expansin; Petunia hybrida
9.  Increasing the source/sink ratio in Vitis vinifera (cv Sangiovese) induces extensive transcriptome reprogramming and modifies berry ripening 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:631.
Cluster thinning is an agronomic practice in which a proportion of berry clusters are removed from the vine to increase the source/sink ratio and improve the quality of the remaining berries. Until now no transcriptomic data have been reported describing the mechanisms that underlie the agronomic and biochemical effects of thinning.
We profiled the transcriptome of Vitis vinifera cv. Sangiovese berries before and after thinning at veraison using a genome-wide microarray representing all grapevine genes listed in the latest V1 gene prediction. Thinning increased the source/sink ratio from 0.6 to 1.2 m2 leaf area per kg of berries and boosted the sugar and anthocyanin content at harvest. Extensive transcriptome remodeling was observed in thinned vines 2 weeks after thinning and at ripening. This included the enhanced modulation of genes that are normally regulated during berry development and the induction of a large set of genes that are not usually expressed.
Cluster thinning has a profound effect on several important cellular processes and metabolic pathways including carbohydrate metabolism and the synthesis and transport of secondary products. The integrated agronomic, biochemical and transcriptomic data revealed that the positive impact of cluster thinning on final berry composition reflects a much more complex outcome than simply enhancing the normal ripening process.
PMCID: PMC3283566  PMID: 22192855
10.  Temperature stress differentially modulates transcription in meiotic anthers of heat-tolerant and heat-sensitive tomato plants 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:384.
Fluctuations in temperature occur naturally during plant growth and reproduction. However, in the hot summers this variation may become stressful and damaging for the molecular mechanisms involved in proper cell growth, impairing thus plant development and particularly fruit-set in many crop plants. Tolerance to such a stress can be achieved by constitutive gene expression or by rapid changes in gene expression, which ultimately leads to protection against thermal damage. We have used cDNA-AFLP and microarray analyses to compare the early response of the tomato meiotic anther transcriptome to moderate heat stress conditions (32°C) in a heat-tolerant and a heat-sensitive tomato genotype. In the light of the expected global temperature increases, elucidating such protective mechanisms and identifying candidate tolerance genes can be used to improve breeding strategies for crop tolerance to heat stress.
The cDNA-AFLP analysis shows that 30 h of moderate heat stress (MHS) alter the expression of approximately 1% of the studied transcript-derived fragments in a heat-sensitive genotype. The major effect is gene down-regulation after the first 2 h of stress. The microarray analysis subsequently applied to elucidate early responses of a heat-tolerant and a heat-sensitive tomato genotype, also shows about 1% of the genes having significant changes in expression after the 2 h of stress. The tolerant genotype not only reacts with moderate transcriptomic changes but also exhibits constitutively higher expression levels of genes involved in protection and thermotolerance.
In contrast to the heat-sensitive genotype, the heat-tolerant genotype exhibits moderate transcriptional changes under moderate heat stress. Moreover, the heat-tolerant genotype also shows a different constitutive gene expression profile compared to the heat-sensitive genotype, indicating genetic differences in adaptation to increased temperatures. In the heat-tolerant genotype, the majority of changes in gene expression is represented by up-regulation, while in the heat-sensitive genotype there is a general trend to down-regulate gene expression upon MHS. The putative functions associated with the genes identified by cDNA-AFLP or microarray indicate the involvement of heat shock, metabolism, antioxidant and development pathways. Based on the observed differences in response to MHS and on literature sources, we identified a number of candidate transcripts involved in heat-tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3162933  PMID: 21801454
11.  Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of the AP2/ERF superfamily in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:719.
The AP2/ERF protein family contains transcription factors that play a crucial role in plant growth and development and in response to biotic and abiotic stress conditions in plants. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is the only woody crop whose genome has been fully sequenced. So far, no detailed expression profile of AP2/ERF-like genes is available for grapevine.
An exhaustive search for AP2/ERF genes was carried out on the Vitis vinifera genome and their expression profile was analyzed by Real-Time quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR) in different vegetative and reproductive tissues and under two different ripening stages.
One hundred and forty nine sequences, containing at least one ERF domain, were identified. Specific clusters within the AP2 and ERF families showed conserved expression patterns reminiscent of other species and grapevine specific trends related to berry ripening. Moreover, putative targets of group IX ERFs were identified by co-expression and protein similarity comparisons.
The grapevine genome contains an amount of AP2/ERF genes comparable to that of other dicot species analyzed so far. We observed an increase in the size of specific groups within the ERF family, probably due to recent duplication events. Expression analyses in different aerial tissues display common features previously described in other plant systems and introduce possible new roles for members of some ERF groups during fruit ripening. The presented analysis of AP2/ERF genes in grapevine provides the bases for studying the molecular regulation of berry development and the ripening process.
PMCID: PMC3022922  PMID: 21171999

Results 1-11 (11)