Somatic mutation is a natural mechanism which allows plant growers to develop new cultivars. As a source of variation within a uniform genetic background, it also represents an ideal tool for studying the genetic make-up of important traits and for establishing gene functions. Layer-specific molecular characterization of the Pinot family of grape cultivars was conducted to provide an evolutionary explanation for the somatic mutations that have affected the locus of berry colour. Through the study of the structural dynamics along chromosome 2, a very large deletion present in a single Pinot gris cell layer was identified and characterized. This mutation reveals that Pinot gris and Pinot blanc arose independently from the ancestral Pinot noir, suggesting a novel parallel evolutionary model. This proposed ‘Pinot-model’ represents a breakthrough towards the full understanding of the mechanisms behind the formation of white, grey, red, and pink grape cultivars, and eventually of their specific enological aptitude.
Via Jean-Pierre Zryd