Expression of flavonoid genes in the red grape berry of 'Alicante Bouschet' varies with the histological distribution of anthocyanins and their chemical composition

Luigi Falginella, Gabriele Di Gaspero, Simone Diego Castellarin
Planta 2012, 236 (4): 1037-51
The mature berry of Vitis vinifera 'Alicante Bouschet' is entirely red, but anthocyanin metabolism discloses elements of histological discontinuity. This provides an experimental system amenable to studies of compartmentalised secondary metabolism in a fleshly fruit. We compared microscopy of fixed berry sections and chemical composition of anthocyanin extracts with the expression of 41 flavonoid genes in three berry tissues. In the pericarp, anthocyanins formed membrane-encased spherical coalescences that gradually enlarged and were shuttled into the vacuolar system. The size and the intensity of in situ pigmentation and of colour extracts of anthocyanin vesicles all decreased with depth beneath the epidermis. Shades of red colour, and the quantity and types of anthocyanins in skin, flesh, and seed extracts were correlated with differences in the expression of flavonoid 3',5'-hydroxylases and anthocyanin genes encoding transcription factors, enzymatic proteins, and transporters. Fine adjustments in the global transcriptional modulation of the pathway occurred distinctively in each tissue, within four groups of co-expressed genes that were more associated with either the pericarp or the seed, and with either early or late-ripening stages. All structural genes controlling early steps of the flavonoid pathway exist in the grapevine genome in multiple copies that were recruited by antagonistic branches of the pathway in the 'Alicante Bouschet' berry. Expression patterns of individual paralogs were spatiotemporally distinct from one another, in step with either anthocyanin genes or proanthocyanidin genes.

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