Differential expression of transcription factor- and further growth-related genes correlates with contrasting cluster architecture in Vitis vinifera 'Pinot Noir' and Vitis spp. genotypes
Grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) is an economically important crop that needs to comply with high quality standards for fruit, juice and wine production. Intense plant protection is required to avoid fungal damage. Grapevine cultivars with loose cluster architecture enable reducing protective treatments due to their enhanced resilience against fungal infections, such as Botrytis cinerea-induced gray mold. A recent study identified transcription factor gene VvGRF4 as determinant of pedicel length, an important component of cluster architecture, in samples of two loose and two compact quasi-isogenic 'Pinot Noir' clones. Here, we extended the analysis to 12 differently clustered 'Pinot Noir' clones from five diverse clonal selection programs. Differential gene expression of these clones was studied in three different locations over three seasons. Two phenotypically opposite clones were grown at all three locations and served for standardization. Data were correlated with the phenotypic variation of cluster architecture sub-traits. A set of 14 genes with consistent expression differences between loosely and compactly clustered clones-independent from season and location-was newly identified. These genes have annotations related to cellular growth, cell division and auxin metabolism and include two more transcription factor genes, PRE6 and SEP1-like. The differential expression of VvGRF4 in relation to loose clusters was exclusively found in 'Pinot Noir' clones. Gene expression studies were further broadened to phenotypically contrasting F1 individuals of an interspecific cross and OIV reference varieties of loose cluster architecture. This investigation confirmed PRE6 and six growth-related genes to show differential expression related to cluster architecture over genetically divergent backgrounds.