Unraveling the DNA Patterns at the Heart of Grapevines

Jim Crocker
26th March, 2024

Unraveling the DNA Patterns at the Heart of Grapevines

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University studied the genetic structure of grapevine centromeres
  • They identified six unique DNA markers in grape centromeres, suggesting rapid evolution in these regions
  • This work could help improve grape breeding by understanding traits inheritance and creating new varieties
Centromeres are crucial for the proper separation of chromosomes during cell division. They are the regions where spindle fibers attach to pull chromosomes apart, ensuring each new cell gets the right number of chromosomes. However, centromeres are more than just functional anchors; they are hotspots for genetic diversity and evolution. Researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University have taken a closer look at the centromeres of grapevines, one of the world's most valuable crops, to understand their structure and evolution[1]. The study focused on the grapevine species Vitis vinifera L., a key player in the wine industry. Despite its economic importance, the complexity of its genetic makeup has posed challenges for geneticists. Previous efforts to map the grapevine genome left gaps, particularly in the repetitive sequences that make up centromeres[2]. These gaps have hindered our understanding of how grapes inherit traits like aroma and disease resistance, which are crucial for breeding better varieties. The Nanjing Agricultural University team has now identified six specific markers within the grape centromere regions by combining genetic and immunological techniques. These markers include five tandem repeat sequences and one long terminal repeat sequence. Tandem repeats are sequences of DNA that are repeated one after another, while long terminal repeats are sequences repeated at the end of a stretch of DNA. Each of these sequences was found to be distributed differently across the centromeres, suggesting a rapid evolution of these regions in grapes. This discovery is significant because centromeres are typically known for their repetitive DNA sequences, which can vary greatly even among related species[3]. The research provides insight into the possible mechanisms behind the evolution of these sequences. For instance, the presence of extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) and gene expression in the centromere subdomains may drive the formation of new centromeric regions[4]. EccDNA, once overlooked in genomic studies, is now recognized for its potential role in stress response and adaptation in plants. In addition to identifying the centromere-specific sequences, the study also lends itself to practical applications. Understanding the diversity and function of centromeres can help in breeding programs, where manipulating these regions could lead to the production of haploid or polyploid offspring, which are valuable for genetic improvement of crops[3]. Furthermore, the precise mapping of centromeres can facilitate chromosome engineering, potentially leading to new plant species or varieties with desired traits. Technological advancements such as the oligo-fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) technique have made it possible to explore these genomic regions with greater accuracy. Oligo-FISH uses small DNA probes to light up specific sequences on chromosomes, allowing scientists to see where genes are located and how they are arranged[5]. The development of software like Chorus2 has improved the selection of these probes, removing repetitive elements and extending the use of oligo-FISH across related plant species. The findings from Nanjing Agricultural University not only expand our understanding of the grapevine genome but also build upon previous research that has set the stage for exploring the complexities of plant genetics. By filling in the gaps of the grapevine genome, particularly in the centromeric regions, scientists are now better equipped to study inheritance patterns and improve grapevine breeding strategies. As we learn more about the dynamics of centromeres, we can harness this knowledge to enhance the resilience and quality of one of the world's most cherished crops.

GeneticsPlant ScienceEvolution


Main Study

1) The evolution and formation of centromeric repeats analysis in Vitis vinifera.

Published 24th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) The complete reference genome for grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) genetics and breeding.


3) Centromeres: From chromosome biology to biotechnology applications and synthetic genomes in plants.


4) Extrachromosomal circular DNA: A neglected nucleic acid molecule in plants.


5) Chorus2: design of genome-scale oligonucleotide-based probes for fluorescence in situ hybridization.


Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙