Understanding How Rough Skin Develops on Niagara Grapes

Jim Crocker
22nd March, 2024

Understanding How Rough Skin Develops on Niagara Grapes

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Brazil, researchers studied three 'Niagara' grape variants with different berry traits
  • 'Niagara Steck' variant has unique genes active in creating its rough, russet-like skin
  • These genetic differences may help breed grapes with new, desirable characteristics
Grapes are not just a fruit but a cornerstone of agriculture, especially in regions like Brazil where the 'Niagara' variety is a staple. This popular table grape is a hybrid between Vitis labrusca and Vitis vinifera and is cherished for its sweet flavor and robust growth. However, grape breeders are constantly on the lookout for new strains that not only yield more and taste better but are also resistant to diseases and can withstand environmental stresses. This is where a recent study from the University of Campinas comes into play[1]. The researchers at the University of Campinas have taken a closer look at three somatic variants of the 'Niagara' grape. Somatic variants are essentially 'natural mutants' that occur within a species, showing different physical characteristics despite having the same genetic background. These variants can sometimes lead to desirable traits in crops. The team's goal was to understand how these variants differ at both the physical and genetic levels. By examining the berry phenotypes, which include traits like size, color, and texture, they found significant differences among the variants. They focused particularly on 'Niagara Steck', a mutant with a rough, russet-like berry skin, quite distinct from the typical smooth grape. To delve deeper, they not only looked at the berries under a microscope but also analyzed their genetic expression patterns. RNA-Seq, a technique used to capture a snapshot of gene activity, was the tool of choice for this genetic exploration. It allowed the scientists to see which genes were turned on or off in the different variants. By constructing a global coexpression network model, they could identify clusters of genes that work together, influencing the development of specific traits. Their findings revealed that 'Niagara Steck' had a unique set of genes that were particularly active and likely responsible for its unusual skin texture. These genes are related to the regulation of plant hormones such as auxin, which is known to influence a wide range of plant growth processes, and the development of cell walls and plasma membranes. Notably, genes involved in the production of cutin and suberin, components that contribute to the protective layers of plant tissues, were differentially expressed in this variant. This genetic activity supports the observed anatomical differences, such as the russet-like skin which is thicker and more textured than that of its counterparts. These findings have practical applications. Understanding the genetic basis of these somatic variants can inform grape breeding programs. For instance, the grapevine germplasm management study[2] highlighted the importance of genetic diversity in breeding. The 'Niagara Steck' variant, with its distinct genetic expression, could contribute to this diversity, potentially offering new traits for breeders to exploit. Moreover, the study of a wild grape haplotype providing resistance to disease[3] shows how genetic variations can be crucial for developing hardier grape varieties. While 'Niagara Steck' wasn't specifically bred for disease resistance, the principles of selecting for beneficial traits apply. The knowledge gained from the University of Campinas's research could eventually lead to grapes that are not only diverse in appearance but also in their resilience to pathogens and environmental factors. Furthermore, understanding the development stages of grape berries[4] is essential for improving fruit quality. The transcriptomic data from the 'Niagara' variants provide insights into the genetic regulation during these key stages. This could lead to more targeted approaches in managing the ripening process, potentially enhancing the quality of the grapes. Lastly, the study on glutathione S-transferases[5] sheds light on the transport mechanisms of flavonoids, compounds contributing to the color and health benefits of grapes. The genetic differences observed in 'Niagara Steck' could influence these pathways, affecting not only the appearance but also the nutritional profile of the grapes. In summary, the University of Campinas's study provides a valuable glimpse into the genetic intricacies of grape variants. By bridging morphological characteristics with genetic data, the research opens the door to more informed breeding strategies that may lead to better grape varieties in the future, combining desirable traits such as unique appearances, improved tastes, and enhanced resistance to environmental challenges.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Uncovering the molecular mechanisms of russet skin formation in Niagara grapevine (Vitis vinifera × Vitis labrusca).

Published 19th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Genetic structure and molecular diversity of Brazilian grapevine germplasm: Management and use in breeding programs.


3) Gene duplication and transposition of mobile elements drive evolution of the Rpv3 resistance locus in grapevine.


4) Omics Approaches for Understanding Grapevine Berry Development: Regulatory Networks Associated with Endogenous Processes and Environmental Responses.


5) Differential Roles for VviGST1, VviGST3, and VviGST4 in Proanthocyanidin and Anthocyanin Transport in Vitis vinífera.


Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙