A recent paper, first-authored by Ana Rita Cavaco and headed by Andreia Figueiredo – respectively, researcher and principal investigator at the Grapevine-Pathogen Systems (GPS) Lab, at Ciências ULisboa – reports, for the first time, a distinctive profile of lipids and fatty acids in tolerant and susceptible grapevine varieties to downy mildew. If you want to know more about this paper, published in the Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology Journal, read the BioISI Digest below.

What was the starting point that led to the current research?

GPSLab is focused on understanding the molecular mechanism beneath grapevine tolerance to diseases, in particularly downy mildew, and how this knowledge might be used to build new and more sustainable disease control strategies. From our previous works we know that lipids, the main constituents of the cell membranes, are modulated in tolerant grapevine genotypes after pathogen challenge. However, the same doesn’t happen when a susceptible grapevine is infected. This led us to ask: “what if tolerant and susceptible grapevine varieties have a specific constitutive lipid composition before infection that allows us to differentiate them?” Taking this question as a starting point, we analyzed the basal lipid composition tolerant and susceptible varieties to downy mildew.

What is the main finding reported in this paper?

In this work we were able to find a distinctive profile of lipids and fatty acids in tolerant and susceptible varieties to downy mildew. While tolerant varieties are richer saturated fatty acids (which might result in less fluid membranes) and neutral lipids and phosphatidic acid, the susceptible varieties present higher content of plastidial lipids and unsaturated FA. Moreover, the genes that are responsible for the formation of unsaturated fatty acids are more expressed in the susceptible varieties. For the first time, we have pointed out the possibility to use the constitutive lipid profile of grapevine leaves to distinguish between tolerant and susceptible grapevine varieties to downy mildew.

If you had to explain the main finding to a 5-year-old child, how would you do it?

Imagine two twin brothers. They look the same but one of them is always healthy and the other is always with a cold. After some medical exams it was pointed out that the brother who is always healthy has much more omega3 on his blood. The brother who is always with a cold has low levels of omega 3.
In our work we looked at different grapevine genotypes to understand why only some of them get sick, when they all look the same, just like the twin brothers. After a molecular exam we were able to see that healthier plants have a different lipid composition on their leaves.  With this information we are able to pinpoint which plants could be healthier and which plant would suffer more with downy mildew.

Why is it important for the scientific community and for society at large?

The differences in lipid profiles detected in this work between tolerant and susceptible grapevine varieties can be used in the future as biomarkers in breeding programs. This means that, in the future, the content of grapevine leaf lipids can be used to select varieties to make crossings to produce grapevines

What are the next steps?

The next step in this work is to extend the study to a larger group of varieties, both susceptible and tolerant to downy mildew and other diseases. This way we will be able to validate the lipids we present as candidates to molecular markers for resistance or susceptibility and we may also find new molecules that help us distinguish tolerance from susceptibility.

Find out more about GPS Lab here 

Read the full paper here.

Ana Rita Cavaco and Andreia Figueiredo [images provided by the researchers]