Vine nitrogen status and volatile thiols and their precursors from plot to transcriptome level

BMC Plant Biol. 2016 Aug 8;16(1):173. doi: 10.1186/s12870-016-0836-y.


Background: Volatile thiols largely contribute to the organoleptic characteristics and typicity of Sauvignon blanc wines. Among this family of odorous compounds, 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3SH) and 4-methyl-4-sulfanylpentan-2-one (4MSP) have a major impact on wine flavor. These thiols are formed during alcoholic fermentation by the yeast from odorless, non-volatile precursors found in the berries and the must. The present study investigates the effects of vine nitrogen (N) status on 3SH and 4MSP content in Sauvignon blanc wine and on the glutathionylated and cysteinylated precursors of 3SH (Glut-3SH and Cys-3SH) in the berries and the must. This is paralleled by a RNA-seq analysis of gene expression in the berries. The impact of N supply on the expression of the glutathione-S-transferase 3 and 4 (VviGST3 and VviGST4) and the γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (VviGGT), considered as key genes in their biosynthesis, was also evaluated.

Results: N supply (N100 treatment) increased the 3SH content in wine while no effect was noticed on 4MSP level. Furthermore, N supply increased Glut-3SH levels in grape berries at late berry ripening stages, and this effect was highly significant in must at harvest. No significant effect of N addition was noticed on Cys-3SH concentration. The transcript abundance of the glutathione-S-transferases VviGST3 and VviGST4 and the γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (VviGGT), were similar between the control and the N100 treatment. New candidate genes which might be implicated in the biosynthetic pathway of 3SH precursors were identified by whole transcriptome shotgun sequencing (RNA-seq).

Conclusions: High vine N status has a positive effect on 3SH content in wine through an increase of Glut-3SH levels in grape berries and must. Candidate GSTs and glutathione-S-conjugates type transporters involved in this stimulation were identified by RNA-seq analysis.

Keywords: 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol; 4-methyl-4-sulfanylpentan-2-one; Cysteinylated precursors; GGT; GST; Glutathionylated precursors; Nitrogen; Vitis vinifera; Volatile thiols.

MeSH terms

  • Fermentation
  • Fruit / genetics
  • Fruit / growth & development
  • Fruit / metabolism
  • Fruit / microbiology
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome
  • Vitis / genetics
  • Vitis / growth & development
  • Vitis / metabolism*
  • Vitis / microbiology
  • Wine / analysis


  • Plant Proteins
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Glutathione
  • Nitrogen