Frontiers in plant science

Global DNA Methylation Patterns Can Play a Role in Defining Terroir in Grapevine (Vitis vinifera cv. Shiraz).

PMID 29163587


Understanding how grapevines perceive and adapt to different environments will provide us with an insight into how to better manage crop quality. Mounting evidence suggests that epigenetic mechanisms are a key interface between the environment and the genotype that ultimately affect the plant's phenotype. Moreover, it is now widely accepted that epigenetic mechanisms are a source of useful variability during crop varietal selection that could affect crop performance. While the contribution of DNA methylation to plant performance has been extensively studied in other major crops, very little work has been done in grapevine. To study the genetic and epigenetic diversity across 22 vineyards planted with the cultivar Shiraz in six wine sub-regions of the Barossa, South Australia. Methylation sensitive amplified polymorphisms (MSAPs) were used to obtain global patterns of DNA methylation. The observed epigenetic profiles showed a high level of differentiation that grouped vineyards by their area of provenance despite the low genetic differentiation between vineyards and sub-regions. Pairwise epigenetic distances between vineyards indicate that the main contributor (23-24%) to the detected variability is associated to the distribution of the vineyards on the N-S axis. Analysis of the methylation profiles of vineyards pruned with the same system increased the positive correlation observed between geographic distance and epigenetic distance suggesting that pruning system affects inter-vineyard epigenetic differentiation. Finally, methylation sensitive genotyping by sequencing identified 3,598 differentially methylated genes in grapevine leaves that were assigned to 1,144 unique gene ontology terms of which 8.6% were associated with response to environmental stimulus. Our results suggest that DNA methylation differences between vineyards and sub-regions within The Barossa are influenced both by the geographic location and, to a lesser extent, by pruning system. Finally, we discuss how epigenetic variability can be used as a tool to understand and potentially modulate terroir in grapevine.