Scientists Identify Factor Which Influence Color of Pinot Grapes


To be red, or not to be red is a matter of mutation. 
This past Friday, New Zealand Herald reporter Jamie Morton published a story about a team of researchers at INRA Colmar (France) who discovered the reason why some pinot grapes turn out red and why some turn out white. 
“A new study … found the colour of grapes within the pinot family spawn from naturally occurring mutations which selectively shut down the genes responsible for the synthesis of red pigments, called anthocyanins,” Morton wrote.
In other words, stuff happens in the genetic mutations which shuts off the grape's ability to give itself red coloring.
According to science website Eureka Alert, the scientists used 33 clones of pinot noir, pinot gris and pinot blanc. 
“For the first time, they have shown that large-scale exchanges between homologous chromosomes, sometimes associated with deletions, selectively shut down the genes that induce the biosynthesis of anthocyanins, the Eureka Alert article said. 
Of note was the propensity of vines to create chimera grapes. Morton said this takes place when cells responsible for red coloring surround cells responsible for white coloring.
According to the study, which was published by PLOS Genetics, the researchers said the pinot grape was a good candidate for the experiment because it has a lot of genetic diversity.
“Pinot is one of the most ancient grapevine varieties made up of  a large panel of clones, most of them used to produce very different wines with specific oenological characteristics in different vineyards around the world,” the study said. “This great diversity of clones, which is due to spontaneous somatic mutations that have occurred over time, makes Pinot a fascinating subject of study.”
According to the study, the findings aren't earth-shattering in the sense that winemakers would be able to change the color of their grapes at will. Rather, the study's findings will help scientists understand how mutations shed light on the overall process of change in Pinot vines.
“Our findings shed new light on the way molecular and cellular mechanisms shape the grapevine genotypes during vegetative propagation, and enable us to propose a scheme of evolutionary mechanism of the Pinot clones,” the study said. 
Furthermore, Morton wrote, there isn't an immediate takeaway from the Kiwis' wine industry.
“Dr. Chris Winefield, a senior lecturer in plant biochemistry at Lincoln University, doubted the findings would have any direct implications for New Zealand's wine industry,” Morton said

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