The transcriptional responses and metabolic consequences of acclimation to elevated light exposure in grapevine berries

Du Plessis, Kari ; Young, Philip R. ; Eyeghe-Bickong, Hans A. ; Vivier, Melane A. (2017)

CITATION: Du Plessis, K., et al. 2017. The transcriptional responses and metabolic consequences of acclimation to elevated light exposure in grapevine berries. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8:1261, doi:10.3389/fpls.2017.01261.

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An increasing number of field studies that focus on grapevine berry development and ripening implement systems biology approaches; the results are highlighting not only the intricacies of the developmental programming/reprogramming that occurs, but also the complexity of how profoundly the microclimate influences the metabolism of the berry throughout the different stages of development. In a previous study we confirmed that a leaf removal treatment to Sauvignon Blanc grapes, grown in a highly characterized vineyard, primarily affected the level of light exposure to the berries throughout their development. A full transcriptomic analysis of berries from this model vineyard details the underlying molecular responses of the berries in reaction to the exposure and show how the berries acclimated to the imposing light stress. Gene expression involved in the protection of the photosynthetic machinery through rapid protein-turnover and the expression of photoprotective flavonoid compounds were most significantly affected in green berries. Overall, the transcriptome analysis showed that the berries implemented multiple stress-mitigation strategies in parallel and metabolite analysis was used to support the main findings. Combining the transcriptome data and amino acid profiling provided evidence that amino acid catabolism probably contributed to the mitigation of a likely energetic deficit created by the upregulation of (energetically) costly stress defense mechanisms. Furthermore, the rapid turnover of essential proteins involved in the maintenance of primary metabolism and growth in the photosynthetically active grapes appeared to provide precursors for the production of protective secondary metabolites such as apocarotenoids and flavonols in the ripening stages of the berries. Taken together, these results confirmed that the green grape berries responded to light stress much like other vegetative organs and were able to acclimate to the increased exposure, managing their metabolism and energy requirements to sustain the developmental cycle toward ripening. The typical metabolic consequences of leaf removal on grape berries can therefore now be linked to increased light exposure through mechanisms of photoprotection in green berries that leads toward acclimation responses that remain intact until ripening.

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