JOURNAL ARTICLE

Exogenous application of pectin-derived oligosaccharides to grape berries modifies anthocyanin accumulation, composition and gene expression

Daniel Villegas, Michael Handford, José Antonio Alcalde, Alonso Perez-Donoso
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry: PPB 2016, 104: 125-33
27031424
Anthocyanins are secondary metabolites synthesized in grape berry skins via the phenylpropanoid pathway, with functions ranging from skin coloration to protection against pathogens or UV light. Accumulation of these compounds is highly variable depending on genetics, environmental factors and viticultural practices. Besides their biological functions, anthocyanins improve wine quality, as a high anthocyanin content in berries has a positive impact on the color, total phenolic concentration and, ultimately, the price of wine. The present work studies the effect of the pre-veraison application of pectin derived oligosaccharides (PDO) on the synthesis and accumulation of these compounds, and associates the changes observed with the expression of key genes in the phenylpropanoid pathways. To this end, pre-veraison Cabernet Sauvignon bunches were treated with PDO to subsequently determine total anthocyanin content, the anthocyanin profile (by HPLC-DAD) and gene expression (by qRT-PCR), using Ethrel and water treatments for comparison. The results show that PDO were as efficient as Ethrel in generating a significant rise in total anthocyanin content at 30 days after treatment (dat), compared with water treatments (1.32, 1.48 and 1.02 mg e.Mv-3G/g FW respectively) without any undesirable effect on berry size, soluble solids, tartaric acid concentration or pH. In addition, a significant alteration in the anthocyanin profile was observed. Specifically, a significant increase in the relative concentration of malvidin was observed for both PDO and Ethrel treatments, compared with water controls (52.8; 55.0 and 48.3%, respectively), with a significant rise in tri-hydroxylated forms and a fall in di-hydroxylated anthocyanins. The results of gene expression analyses suggest that the increment in total anthocyanin content is related to a short term increase in phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) expression, mediated by a decrease in MYB4A expression. A longer term increase in UDP-glucose flavonoid 3-O-glucosyltransferase (UFGT) expression, probably mediated by a rise in MYBA1 was also observed. Regarding the anthocyanin profile, despite the increase observed in MYB5A expression in PDO and Ethrel treatments, no changes in flavonoid 3'-hydroxylase (F-3'-H); flavonoid 3'5'-hydroxylase (F-3'5'-H) or O-methyltransferase (OMT) could be related with the profile modifications described. Overall, this study highlights that application of PDO is a novel means of altering specific grape berry anthocyanins, and could be a means of positively influencing wine quality without the addition of agrochemicals.

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