Grape genome mapping could boost harvests and wine quality

- Last updated on GMT

American researchers have identified specific genetic markers in the grape genome to improve the fruit quality, and disease and pest resistance, and could quicken the development of better grapes.

A team comprising computational biologists and geneticists from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) report the development of relatively fast and inexpensive way to identify genetic markers not only in grapes, but also in other crops by using modern sequencing approaches.

“With the decreasing costs of DNA sequencing and genotyping, we anticipate that there will be interest in moving rapidly towards genome wide association (GWA) mapping and genomic selection (GS) studies in organisms for which relatively little genetic data currently exists,”​ wrote the researchers in PLoS One​.

“In the present study, we provide a framework for rapidly and cost-effectively moving from very few genetic resources, to genome-wide characterization of a species of great economic and cultural interest, the grapevine,”​ they added.

According to background information in the article, traditional breeding of grapes – one of the world's most economically important fruit crops – is a time-consuming and expensive endeavour with the plant taking three years to go from seed to fruit.

By combing the genome of the plant for genetic markers linked with specific traits, such as fruit quality, environmental adaptation, and disease and pest resistance, the researchers claim to have developed filters that allowed them to make corrections for common sequencing errors, and discovered thousands of high-quality single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPS, which are genetic markers that can serve as signposts for showing how plants are related to each other.

About 9,000 SNPs were used and these SNPs were found to contain enough information to the relationships and geographic origins of the cultivars.

The technique could also be used to identify the origins of other types of plants, said the researchers.

Source: PLoS One
Volume 5, Issue 1, e8219
"Rapid Genomic Characterization of the Genus Vitis"
Authors: S. Myles, J-M. Chia, B. Hurwitz, C. Simon, G.Y. Zhong, E. Buckler, D. Ware

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