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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 grapevine gene nomenclature system 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1077.
Grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) is one of the most important fruit crops in the world and serves as a valuable model for fruit development in woody species. A major breakthrough in grapevine genomics was achieved in 2007 with the sequencing of the Vitis vinifera cv. PN40024 genome. Subsequently, data on structural and functional characterization of grape genes accumulated exponentially. To better exploit the results obtained by the international community, we think that a coordinated nomenclature for gene naming in species with sequenced genomes is essential. It will pave the way for the accumulation of functional data that will enable effective scientific discussion and discovery. The exploitation of data that were generated independently of the genome release is hampered by their heterogeneous nature and by often incompatible and decentralized storage. Classically, large amounts of data describing gene functions are only available in printed articles and therefore remain hardly accessible for automatic text mining. On the other hand, high throughput “Omics” data are typically stored in public repositories, but should be arranged in compendia to better contribute to the annotation and functional characterization of the genes.
With the objective of providing a high quality and highly accessible annotation of grapevine genes, the International Grapevine Genome Project (IGGP) commissioned an international Super-Nomenclature Committee for Grape Gene Annotation (sNCGGa) to coordinate the effort of experts to annotate the grapevine genes. The goal of the committee is to provide a standard nomenclature for locus identifiers and to define conventions for a gene naming system in this paper.
Learning from similar initiatives in other plant species such as Arabidopsis, rice and tomato, a versatile nomenclature system has been developed in anticipation of future genomic developments and annotation issues. The sNCGGa’s first outreach to the grape community has been focused on implementing recommended guidelines for the expert annotators by: (i) providing a common annotation platform that enables community-based gene curation, (ii) developing a gene nomenclature scheme reflecting the biological features of gene products that is consistent with that used in other organisms in order to facilitate comparative analyses.
PMCID: PMC4299395  PMID: 25481684
3.  Metabolite and transcript profiling of berry skin during fruit development elucidates differential regulation between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz cultivars at branching points in the polyphenol pathway 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:188.
Grapevine berries undergo complex biochemical changes during fruit maturation, many of which are dependent upon the variety and its environment. In order to elucidate the varietal dependent developmental regulation of primary and specialized metabolism, berry skins of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were subjected to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) based metabolite profiling from pre-veraison to harvest. The generated dataset was augmented with transcript profiling using RNAseq.
The analysis of the metabolite data revealed similar developmental patterns of change in primary metabolites between the two cultivars. Nevertheless, towards maturity the extent of change in the major organic acid and sugars (i.e. sucrose, trehalose, malate) and precursors of aromatic and phenolic compounds such as quinate and shikimate was greater in Shiraz compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. In contrast, distinct directional projections on the PCA plot of the two cultivars samples towards maturation when using the specialized metabolite profiles were apparent, suggesting a cultivar-dependent regulation of the specialized metabolism. Generally, Shiraz displayed greater upregulation of the entire polyphenol pathway and specifically higher accumulation of piceid and coumaroyl anthocyanin forms than Cabernet Sauvignon from veraison onwards. Transcript profiling revealed coordinated increased transcript abundance for genes encoding enzymes of committing steps in the phenylpropanoid pathway. The anthocyanin metabolite profile showed F3′5′H-mediated delphinidin-type anthocyanin enrichment in both varieties towards maturation, consistent with the transcript data, indicating that the F3′5′H-governed branching step dominates the anthocyanin profile at late berry development. Correlation analysis confirmed the tightly coordinated metabolic changes during development, and suggested a source-sink relation between the central and specialized metabolism, stronger in Shiraz than Cabernet Sauvignon. RNAseq analysis also revealed that the two cultivars exhibited distinct pattern of changes in genes related to abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis enzymes.
Compared with CS, Shiraz showed higher number of significant correlations between metabolites, which together with the relatively higher expression of flavonoid genes supports the evidence of increased accumulation of coumaroyl anthocyanins in that cultivar. Enhanced stress related metabolism, e.g. trehalose, stilbene and ABA in Shiraz berry-skin are consistent with its relatively higher susceptibility to environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC4222437  PMID: 25064275
Metabolite profiling; Grape berry metabolism; Grapevine; Transcript analysis; Metabolomics; GC-MS; LC-MS
4.  Genome-wide analysis and expression profile of the bZIP transcription factor gene family in grapevine (Vitis vinifera) 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:281.
Basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factor gene family is one of the largest and most diverse families in plants. Current studies have shown that the bZIP proteins regulate numerous growth and developmental processes and biotic and abiotic stress responses. Nonetheless, knowledge concerning the specific expression patterns and evolutionary history of plant bZIP family members remains very limited.
We identified 55 bZIP transcription factor-encoding genes in the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) genome, and divided them into 10 groups according to the phylogenetic relationship with those in Arabidopsis. The chromosome distribution and the collinearity analyses suggest that expansion of the grapevine bZIP (VvbZIP) transcription factor family was greatly contributed by the segment/chromosomal duplications, which may be associated with the grapevine genome fusion events. Nine intron/exon structural patterns within the bZIP domain and the additional conserved motifs were identified among all VvbZIP proteins, and showed a high group-specificity. The predicted specificities on DNA-binding domains indicated that some highly conserved amino acid residues exist across each major group in the tree of land plant life. The expression patterns of VvbZIP genes across the grapevine gene expression atlas, based on microarray technology, suggest that VvbZIP genes are involved in grapevine organ development, especially seed development. Expression analysis based on qRT-PCR indicated that VvbZIP genes are extensively involved in drought- and heat-responses, with possibly different mechanisms.
The genome-wide identification, chromosome organization, gene structures, evolutionary and expression analyses of grapevine bZIP genes provide an overall insight of this gene family and their potential involvement in growth, development and stress responses. This will facilitate further research on the bZIP gene family regarding their evolutionary history and biological functions.
PMCID: PMC4023599  PMID: 24725365
bZIP transcription factor family; Grapevine; Gene expression; Drought response; Heat stress response
5.  Comparative Evaluation of Recombinant Protein Production in Different Biofactories: The Green Perspective 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:136419.
In recent years, the production of recombinant pharmaceutical proteins in heterologous systems has increased significantly. Most applications involve complex proteins and glycoproteins that are difficult to produce, thus promoting the development and improvement of a wide range of production platforms. No individual system is optimal for the production of all recombinant proteins, so the diversity of platforms based on plants offers a significant advantage. Here, we discuss the production of four recombinant pharmaceutical proteins using different platforms, highlighting from these examples the unique advantages of plant-based systems over traditional fermenter-based expression platforms.
PMCID: PMC3972949  PMID: 24745008
6.  The Evolutionary History and Diverse Physiological Roles of the Grapevine Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase Gene Family 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80818.
Calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) are molecular switches that bind Ca2+, ATP, and protein substrates, acting as sensor relays and responders that convert Ca2+ signals, created by developmental processes and environmental stresses, into phosphorylation events. The precise functions of the CDPKs in grapevine (Vitis vinifera) are largely unknown. We therefore investigated the phylogenetic relationships and expression profiles of the 17 CDPK genes identified in the 12x grapevine genome sequence, resolving them into four subfamilies based on phylogenetic tree topology and gene structures. The origins of the CDPKs during grapevine evolution were characterized, involving 13 expansion events. Transcriptomic analysis using 54 tissues and developmental stages revealed three types of CDPK gene expression profiles: constitutive (housekeeping CDPKs), partitioned functions, and prevalent in pollen/stamen. We identified two duplicated CDPK genes that had evolved from housekeeping to pollen-prevalent functions and whose origin correlated with that of seed plants, suggesting neofunctionalization with an important role in pollen development and also potential value in the breeding of seedless varieties. We also found that CDPKs were involved in three abiotic stress signaling pathways and could therefore be used to investigate the crosstalk between stress responses.
PMCID: PMC3855637  PMID: 24324631
7.  Comparative analysis of different biofactories for the production of a major diabetes autoantigen 
Transgenic Research  2013;23(2):281-291.
The 65-kDa isoform of human glutamic acid decarboxylase (hGAD65) is a major diabetes autoantigen that can be used for the diagnosis and (more recently) the treatment of autoimmune diabetes. We previously reported that a catalytically-inactive version (hGAD65mut) accumulated to tenfold higher levels than its active counterpart in transgenic tobacco plants, providing a safe and less expensive source of the protein compared to mammalian production platforms. Here we show that hGAD65mut is also produced at higher levels than hGAD65 by transient expression in Nicotiana benthamiana (using either the pK7WG2 or MagnICON vectors), in insect cells using baculovirus vectors, and in bacterial cells using an inducible-expression system, although the latter system is unsuitable because hGAD65mut accumulates within inclusion bodies. The most productive of these platforms was the MagnICON system, which achieved yields of 78.8 μg/g fresh leaf weight (FLW) but this was substantially less than the best-performing elite transgenic tobacco plants, which reached 114.3 μg/g FLW after six generations of self-crossing. The transgenic system was found to be the most productive and cost-effective although the breeding process took 3 years to complete. The MagnICON system was less productive overall, but generated large amounts of protein in a few days. Both plant-based systems were therefore advantageous over the baculovirus-based production platform in our hands.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11248-013-9749-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3951962  PMID: 24142387
Molecular farming; Recombinant protein production; hGAD65mut; hGAD65; Autoimmune diabetes
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Development of an optimized tetracycline-inducible expression system to increase the accumulation of interleukin-10 in tobacco BY-2 suspension cells 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:40.
Plant cell suspension cultures can be used for the production of valuable pharmaceutical and industrial proteins. When the recombinant protein is secreted into the culture medium, restricting expression to a defined growth phase can improve both the quality and quantity of the recovered product by minimizing proteolytic activity. Temporal restriction is also useful for recombinant proteins whose constitutive expression affects cell growth and viability, such as viral interleukin-10 (vIL-10).
We have developed a novel, tetracycline-inducible system suitable for tobacco BY-2 suspension cells which increases the yields of vIL-10. The new system is based on a binary vector that is easier to handle than conventional vectors, contains an enhanced inducible promoter and 5′-UTR to improve yields, and incorporates a constitutively-expressed visible marker gene to allow the rapid and straightforward selection of the most promising transformed clones. Stable transformation of BY-2 cells with this vector, without extensive optimization of the induction conditions, led to a 3.5 fold increase in vIL-10 levels compared to constitutive expression in the same host.
We have developed an effective and straightforward molecular farming platform technology that improves both the quality and the quantity of recombinant proteins produced in plant cells, particularly those whose constitutive expression has a negative impact on plant growth and development. Although we tested the platform using vIL-10 produced in BY-2 cells, it can be applied to other host/product combinations and is also useful for basic research requiring strictly controlled transgene expression.
PMCID: PMC3410776  PMID: 22784336
13.  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
14.  Comparative analysis of grapevine whole-genome gene predictions, functional annotation, categorization and integration of the predicted gene sequences 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:213.
The first draft assembly and gene prediction of the grapevine genome (8X base coverage) was made available to the scientific community in 2007, and functional annotation was developed on this gene prediction. Since then additional Sanger sequences were added to the 8X sequences pool and a new version of the genomic sequence with superior base coverage (12X) was produced.
In order to more efficiently annotate the function of the genes predicted in the new assembly, it is important to build on as much of the previous work as possible, by transferring 8X annotation of the genome to the 12X version. The 8X and 12X assemblies and gene predictions of the grapevine genome were compared to answer the question, “Can we uniquely map 8X predicted genes to 12X predicted genes?” The results show that while the assemblies and gene structure predictions are too different to make a complete mapping between them, most genes (18,725) showed a one-to-one relationship between 8X predicted genes and the last version of 12X predicted genes. In addition, reshuffled genomic sequence structures appeared. These highlight regions of the genome where the gene predictions need to be taken with caution. Based on the new grapevine gene functional annotation and in-depth functional categorization, twenty eight new molecular networks have been created for VitisNet while the existing networks were updated.
The outcomes of this study provide a functional annotation of the 12X genes, an update of VitisNet, the system of the grapevine molecular networks, and a new functional categorization of genes. Data are available at the VitisNet website (
PMCID: PMC3419625  PMID: 22554261
15.  Genome-wide microarray analysis of tomato roots showed defined responses to iron deficiency 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:101.
Plants react to iron deficiency stress adopting different kind of adaptive responses. Tomato, a Strategy I plant, improves iron uptake through acidification of rhizosphere, reduction of Fe3+ to Fe2+ and transport of Fe2+ into the cells. Large-scale transcriptional analyses of roots under iron deficiency are only available for a very limited number of plant species with particular emphasis for Arabidopsis thaliana. Regarding tomato, an interesting model species for Strategy I plants and an economically important crop, physiological responses to Fe-deficiency have been thoroughly described and molecular analyses have provided evidence for genes involved in iron uptake mechanisms and their regulation. However, no detailed transcriptome analysis has been described so far.
A genome-wide transcriptional analysis, performed with a chip that allows to monitor the expression of more than 25,000 tomato transcripts, identified 97 differentially expressed transcripts by comparing roots of Fe-deficient and Fe-sufficient tomato plants. These transcripts are related to the physiological responses of tomato roots to the nutrient stress resulting in an improved iron uptake, including regulatory aspects, translocation, root morphological modification and adaptation in primary metabolic pathways, such as glycolysis and TCA cycle. Other genes play a role in flavonoid biosynthesis and hormonal metabolism.
The transcriptional characterization confirmed the presence of the previously described mechanisms to adapt to iron starvation in tomato, but also allowed to identify other genes potentially playing a role in this process, thus opening new research perspectives to improve the knowledge on the tomato root response to the nutrient deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3368770  PMID: 22433273
16.  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
17.  Effects of abiotic stress on plants: a systems biology perspective 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:163.
The natural environment for plants is composed of a complex set of abiotic stresses and biotic stresses. Plant responses to these stresses are equally complex. Systems biology approaches facilitate a multi-targeted approach by allowing one to identify regulatory hubs in complex networks. Systems biology takes the molecular parts (transcripts, proteins and metabolites) of an organism and attempts to fit them into functional networks or models designed to describe and predict the dynamic activities of that organism in different environments. In this review, research progress in plant responses to abiotic stresses is summarized from the physiological level to the molecular level. New insights obtained from the integration of omics datasets are highlighted. Gaps in our knowledge are identified, providing additional focus areas for crop improvement research in the future.
PMCID: PMC3252258  PMID: 22094046
18.  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
19.  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
20.  The ascorbic acid content of tomato fruits is associated with the expression of genes involved in pectin degradation 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:163.
High levels of ascorbic acid (AsA) in tomato fruits provide health benefits for humans and also play an important role in several aspects of plant life. Although AsA metabolism has been characterized in detail, the genetic mechanisms controlling AsA accumulation in tomatoes are poorly understood. The transcriptional control of AsA levels in fruits can be investigated by combining the advanced genetic and genomic resources currently available for tomato. A comparative transcriptomic analysis of fruit tissues was carried out on an introgression line containing a QTL promoting AsA accumulation in the fruit, using a parental cultivar with lower AsA levels as a reference.
Introgression line IL 12-4 (S. pennellii in a S. lycopersicum background) was selected for transcriptomic analysis because it maintained differences in AsA levels compared to the parental genotypes M82 and S. pennellii over three consecutive trials. Comparative microarray analysis of IL 12-4 and M82 fruits over a 2-year period allowed 253 differentially-expressed genes to be identified, suggesting that AsA accumulation in IL 12-4 may be caused by a combination of increased metabolic flux and reduced utilization of AsA. In particular, the upregulation of a pectinesterase and two polygalacturonases suggests that AsA accumulation in IL12-4 fruit is mainly achieved by increasing flux through the L-galactonic acid pathway, which is driven by pectin degradation and may be triggered by ethylene.
Based on functional annotation, gene ontology classification and hierarchical clustering, a subset of the 253 differentially-expressed transcripts was used to develop a model to explain the higher AsA content in IL 12-4 fruits in terms of metabolic flux, precursor availability, demand for antioxidants, abundance of reactive oxygen species and ethylene signaling.
PMCID: PMC3095297  PMID: 20691085
21.  General and species-specific transcriptional responses to downy mildew infection in a susceptible (Vitis vinifera) and a resistant (V. riparia) grapevine species 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:117.
Downy mildew is a destructive grapevine disease caused by Plasmopara viticola (Berk. and Curt.) Berl. and de Toni, which can only be controlled by intensive fungicide treatments. Natural sources of resistance from wild grapevine (Vitis) species are used in conventional breeding approaches, but the signals and effectors involved in resistance in this important crop species are not well understood.
Early transcriptional changes associated with P. viticola infection in susceptible V. vinifera and resistant V. riparia plants were analyzed using the Combimatrix microarray platform. Transcript levels were measured 12 and 24 h post-inoculation, reflecting the time points immediately preceding the onset of resistance in V. riparia, as determined by microscopic analysis. Our data indicate that resistance in V. riparia is induced after infection, and is not based on differences in basal gene expression between the two species. The strong and rapid transcriptional reprogramming involves the induction of pathogenesis-related proteins and enzymes required for the synthesis of phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, many of which are also induced, albeit to a lesser extent, in V. vinifera. More interestingly, resistance in V. riparia also involves the specific modulation of numerous transcripts encoding components of signal transduction cascades, hypersensitive reaction markers and genes involved in jasmonate biosynthesis. The limited transcriptional modulation in V. vinifera represents a weak attempted defense response rather than the activation of compatibility-specific pathways.
Several candidate resistance genes were identified that could be exploited in future biotechnological approaches to increase disease resistance in susceptible grapevine species. Measurements of jasmonic acid and methyl jasmonate in infected leaves suggest that this hormone may also be involved in V. riparia resistance to P. viticola.
PMCID: PMC2831845  PMID: 20167053
22.  Correction: High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:109.
The version of this article published in BMC Genomics 2009, 10:558, contains data in Table 1 which are now known to be unreliable, and an illustration, in Figure 1, of unusual miRNA processing events predicted by these unreliable data. In this full-length correction, new data replace those found to be unreliable, leading to a more straightforward interpretation without altering the principle conclusions of the study. Table 1 and associated methods have been corrected, Figure 1 deleted, supplementary file 1 added, and modifications made to the sections "Deep sequencing of small RNAs from grapevine leaf tissue" and "Microarray analysis of miRNA expression". The editors and authors regret the inconvenience caused to readers by premature publication of the original paper.
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
PMCID: PMC2831844  PMID: 20152027
23.  High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:558.
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
PMCID: PMC2822795  PMID: 19939267
24.  Viral and murine interleukin-10 are correctly processed and retain their biological activity when produced in tobacco 
BMC Biotechnology  2009;9:22.
Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is a potent anti-inflammatory cytokine, with therapeutic applications in several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Oral administration of this cytokine alone, or in combination with disease-associated autoantigens could confer protection form the onset of a specific autoimmune disease through the induction of oral tolerance. Transgenic plants are attractive systems for production of therapeutic proteins because of the ability to do large scale-up at low cost, and the low maintenance requirements. They are highly amenable to oral administration and could become effective delivery systems without extensive protein purification. We investigated the ability of tobacco plants to produce high levels of biologically-active viral and murine IL-10.
Three different subcellular targeting strategies were assessed in transient expression experiments, and stable transgenic tobacco plants were generated with the constructs that yielded the highest accumulation levels by targeting the recombinant proteins to the endoplasmic reticulum. The best yields using this strategy in T1 plants were 10.8 and 37.0 μg/g fresh leaf weight for viral and murine IL-10, respectively. The recombinant proteins were purified from transgenic leaf material and characterized in terms of their N-glycan composition, dimerization and biological activity in in vitro assays. Both molecules formed stable dimers, were able to activate the IL-10 signaling pathway and to induce specific anti-inflammatory responses in mouse J774 macrophage cells.
Tobacco plants are able to correctly process viral and murine IL-10 into biologically active dimers, therefore representing a suitable platform for the production for these cytokines. The accumulation levels obtained are high enough to allow delivery of an immunologically relevant dose of IL-10 in a reasonable amount of leaf material, without extensive purification. This study paves the way to performing feeding studies in mouse models of autoimmune diseases, that will allow the evaluation the immunomodulatory properties and effectiveness of the viral IL-10 in inducing oral tolerance compared to the murine protein.
PMCID: PMC2667500  PMID: 19298643
25.  Molecular analysis of post-harvest withering in grape by AFLP transcriptional profiling 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2008;59(15):4145-4159.
Post-harvest withering of grape berries is used in the production of dessert and fortified wines to alter must quality characteristics and increase the concentration of simple sugars. The molecular processes that occur during withering are poorly understood, so a detailed transcriptomic analysis of post-harvest grape berries was carried out by AFLP-transcriptional profiling analysis. This will help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of berry withering and will provide an opportunity to select markers that can be used to follow the drying process and evaluate different drying techniques. AFLP-TP identified 699 withering-specific genes, 167 and 86 of which were unique to off-plant and on-plant withering, respectively. Although similar molecular events were revealed in both withering processes, it was apparent that off-plant withering induced a stronger dehydration stress response resulting in the high level expression of genes involved in stress protection mechanisms, such as dehydrin and osmolite accumulation. Genes involved in hexose metabolism and transport, cell wall composition, and secondary metabolism (particularly the phenolic and terpene compound pathways) were similarly regulated in both processes. This work provides the first comprehensive analysis of the molecular events underpinning post-harvest withering and could help to define markers for different withering processes.
PMCID: PMC2639028  PMID: 19010774
AFLP-TP; gene expression; grape berry withering; on- and off-plant withering processes

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