New Technology Aims To Develop Climate-Tolerant Grapes

A new sequencing technology, combined with a new computer algorithm that can yield detailed information about complex genomes of various organisms, has been used to produce a high-quality draft genome sequence of ‘Cabernet Sauvignon,’ the world’s most popular red winegrape variety, reports a UC Davis genomics expert.

Success of the new genome assembly, which allows researchers to assemble large segments of an organism’s DNA, also was demonstrated on the common research plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the coral mushroom (Clavicorona pyxidata). The findings are reported today, Oct. 17, in the journal Nature Methods.

The three-pronged, proof-of-concept study used an open-source genome assembly process called FALCON-unzip, developed by Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, CA. The study was led by Chen-Shan Chin, the firm’s leading bioinformatician. Lead researcher on the cabernet sauvignon sequencing effort was Dario Cantu, a plant geneticist specializing in plant and microbial genomics in the University of California, Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology.

“For grapevine genomics, this new technology solves a problem that has limited the development of genomic resources for winegrape varieties,” Cantu said. “It’s like finally being able to uncork a wine bottle that we have wanted to drink for a long time.

“The new process provides rapid access to genetic information that cabernet sauvignon has inherited from both its parents, enabling us to identify genetic markers to use in breeding new vines with improved traits,” he said.

The first genome sequence for the common grapevine, Vitis vinifera, was completed in 2007. Because it was based on a grapevine variety that was generated to simplify the genome assembly procedure, rather than a cultivated variety, that sequence lacks many of the genomic details that economically important winegrape varieties possess, Cantu said.

He noted that the new sequencing technology will enable his research group to conduct comparative studies between ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ and other historically and economically important winegrape varieties.

“This will help us understand what makes ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ ‘Cabernet Sauvignon,’” he said.

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