How Wild and Cultivated Grapevines Are Related: A Look at Italian Lambruscos

Jim Crocker
30th May, 2024

How Wild and Cultivated Grapevines Are Related: A Look at Italian Lambruscos

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by the National Research Council of Italy examined the genetic relationships between 283 cultivated grape varieties and 65 wild grape individuals
  • Researchers found that wild grape populations were contaminated by pollen from specific cultivated grape varieties, threatening the genetic purity of wild grapes
  • The study also identified genetic mixing from wild grapes into cultivated varieties, which helped create new grape varieties with mixed ancestry
The study conducted by the National Research Council of Italy[1] delves into the genetic relationships between 283 cultivated grape varieties (Vitis vinifera subsp. sativa) and 65 wild individuals from nine populations of Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris. This research aims to provide insights into the domestication processes of grapes and the evolution of cultivated forms, especially those producing renowned and valuable wines. The domestication of grapevines has long been a subject of interest due to the plant's economic and cultural significance. Previous studies have highlighted the genetic diversity within grapevine species and the historical practices influencing this diversity[2]. Additionally, research has shed light on the timeline and genetic changes associated with grape domestication, suggesting a divergence between wild and cultivated grapes approximately 22,000 years ago[3]. Other studies have traced the domestication back to Western Asia and the Caucasus around 11,000 years ago, with subsequent spread and diversification across Europe[4]. The current study builds on these findings by using molecular markers, specifically 27 nuclear and 4 chloroplastic microsatellites, to explore the genetic relationships between cultivated and wild grape varieties. The researchers discovered several instances where wild grape populations were contaminated by pollen from specific grape cultivars, raising concerns about maintaining the genetic purity of wild grapevines. Conversely, they also identified events of introgression from wild subspecies into cultivated varieties, which played a crucial role in the emergence of several grape varieties with mixed genetic ancestry. One notable example is the Lambrusco grape varieties from northern Italy. The study found that Lambruscos originating from the flat areas crossed by the Po and Adige rivers exhibited a clear admixed genome, combining genetic material from both sativa and sylvestris subspecies. However, other Lambrusco varieties typical of hilly areas did not show the same mixed genetic background. This suggests that the genetic makeup of grape varieties can be significantly influenced by their geographical and ecological context, leading to adaptive post-domestication processes. The findings of this study are significant as they highlight the complex interplay between wild and cultivated grapevines in the evolution of grape varieties. The detection of genetic contamination from cultivated to wild populations underscores the importance of conservation efforts to preserve the genetic integrity of wild grapevines. At the same time, the introgression from wild to cultivated varieties illustrates how genetic diversity from wild populations can contribute to the development of new and potentially valuable grape varieties. In summary, this research provides a deeper understanding of the genetic relationships between wild and cultivated grapevines, emphasizing the role of genetic introgression and contamination in shaping the genetic landscape of grape varieties. By building on previous studies[2][3][4], it offers new insights into the domestication and evolution of grapes, highlighting the ongoing need for conservation and the potential benefits of genetic diversity in grape breeding programs.

AgricultureGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Genetic relationships and introgression events between wild and cultivated grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.): focus on Italian Lambruscos.

Published 29th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Historical origins and genetic diversity of wine grapes.

Journal: Trends in genetics : TIG, Issue: Vol 22, Issue 9, Sep 2006

3) Evolutionary genomics of grape (Vitis vinifera ssp. vinifera) domestication.

4) Dual domestications and origin of traits in grapevine evolution.

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