Background: Berries of grape (Vitis vinifera) contain three major tissue types (skin, pulp and seed) all of which contribute to the aroma, color, and flavor characters of wine. The pericarp, which is composed of the exocarp (skin) and mesocarp (pulp), not only functions to protect and feed the developing seed, but also to assist in the dispersal of the mature seed by avian and mammalian vectors. The skin provides volatile and nonvolatile aroma and color compounds, the pulp contributes organic acids and sugars, and the seeds provide condensed tannins, all of which are important to the formation of organoleptic characteristics of wine. In order to understand the transcriptional network responsible for controlling tissue-specific mRNA expression patterns, mRNA expression profiling was conducted on each tissue of mature berries of V. vinifera Cabernet Sauvignon using the Affymetrix GeneChip(R) Vitis oligonucleotide microarray ver. 1.0. In order to monitor the influence of water-deficit stress on tissue-specific expression patterns, mRNA expression profiles were also compared from mature berries harvested from vines subjected to well-watered or water-deficit conditions.
Results: Overall, berry tissues were found to express approximately 76% of genes represented on the Vitis microarray. Approximately 60% of these genes exhibited significant differential expression in one or more of the three major tissue types with more than 28% of genes showing pronounced (2-fold or greater) differences in mRNA expression. The largest difference in tissue-specific expression was observed between the seed and pulp/skin. Exocarp tissue, which is involved in pathogen defense and pigment production, showed higher mRNA abundance relative to other berry tissues for genes involved with flavonoid biosynthesis, pathogen resistance, and cell wall modification. Mesocarp tissue, which is considered a nutritive tissue, exhibited a higher mRNA abundance of genes involved in cell wall function and transport processes. Seeds, which supply essential resources for embryo development, showed higher mRNA abundance of genes encoding phenylpropanoid biosynthetic enzymes, seed storage proteins, and late embryogenesis abundant proteins. Water-deficit stress affected the mRNA abundance of 13% of the genes with differential expression patterns occurring mainly in the pulp and skin. In pulp and seed tissues transcript abundance in most functional categories declined in water-deficit stressed vines relative to well-watered vines with transcripts for storage proteins and novel (no-hit) functional assignments being over represented. In the skin of berries from water-deficit stressed vines, however, transcripts from several functional categories including general phenypropanoid and ethylene metabolism, pathogenesis-related responses, energy, and interaction with the environment were significantly over-represented.
Conclusion: These results revealed novel insights into the tissue-specific expression mRNA expression patterns of an extensive repertoire of genes expressed in berry tissues. This work also establishes an extensive catalogue of gene expression patterns for future investigations aimed at the dissection of the transcriptional regulatory hierarchies that govern tissue-specific expression patterns associated with tissue differentiation within berries. These results also confirmed that water-deficit stress has a profound effect on mRNA expression patterns particularly associated with the biosynthesis of aroma and color metabolites within skin and pulp tissues that ultimately impact wine quality.