New Gene Sequencing Method May Lead to Stress-Resistant Wine Grapes

A team of researchers just used a new gene sequencing technique to derive the genome sequence of Cabernet Sauvignon, a type of grape used for making red wines. The data may help scientists develop hardier wine grape varieties that can tolerate climate change and drought. The findings also provide insights into the history and ecology of wine. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Nature Methods.

The common grape vine (Vitis vinifera) was first sequenced in 2007. The plant was chosen due to the simplicity of its genome and compatibility with current sequencing methods. Common grape vines are missing many of the important genetic markers found in popular wine varieties, however, so the data was largely incomplete.

Researchers used an open source genomics technique developed by Pacific Biosciences, called FALCON-unzip. This method allows scientists to quickly process large DNA sequences. FALCON-unzip was used to construct the genomes of the coral fungus (Clavicorona pyxidata) and thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a common model for studying plant biology. The team then turned their attention to Vitis vinifera cv. Cabernet Sauvignon, a red wine grape.

The research team was able to generate a complete genome for Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines. The team will be able to use this information to compare wine varieties, increasing our understanding of wine’s complicated history. Understanding the genetics of grapevines will also allow scientists to develop new varieties that are more resistant to disease, drought, and the effects of climate change. Breeding heat-resistant varieties is especially important since heat stress can dramatically affect crop yields.

FALCON-unzip is making it easier for scientists to perform genomic analyses. Now, researchers are using the method to construct genomes for plant and fungus species. The technique was used to determine the genome for Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines. The data from the study may eventually lead to wine varieties that are more tolerant of changing environmental conditions.

REFERENCE

Chin et al. Phased diploid genome assembly with single-molecule real-time sequencing. Nature Methods (2016).

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