A new original research article was published in the journal Gene. The paper reports the research led by the group of Andreia Figueiredo, from Grapevine-Pathogen Systems Lab, Plant Functional Genomics Group.

This work shows that certain enzymes involved in the process of DNA methylation in grapevine have an important role on cultivars’ susceptibility or tolerance to develop downy mildew disease. These results are then useful to increase sustainability in grapevine production, a crop with social and economic relevance.

Find out in detail this research work by reading the digest below.


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

In our previous studies on the activation of grapevine defense mechanisms after Plasmopara viticola (a filamentous fungus-like microorganism causing downy mildew disease) attack in susceptible and tolerant cultivars, we highlighted that a delay in the activation of key genes occurs in the susceptible cultivar. Thus, we hypothesize that the regulation of gene activity through DNA methylation could be one of the key points to explain this delay. Often a hypomethylation is described in the first hours of an efficient defense response (incompatible interaction) and our aim was to confirm if the same pattern was seen in grapevine.

What is the main finding reported in this paper?

This work allowed the characterization of the DNA methyltransferase gene family in grapevine and the evaluation of the percentage of 5-methylcytosine (the modification carried out by these enzymes) at several time-points after inoculation. The main findings were related to the establishment that methylation patterns differentiate susceptible from tolerant genotypes as well as how the gene expression of specific DNA methyltransferases may contribute to this pattern. Moreover, we were able to identify candidates that may be crucial for an effective defense response.

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

Epigenetic regulation within plant-pathogen interactions is only recently started to be uncovered. It plays important roles in the regulation of gene transcription of plant defense responses and, DNA methylation was proposed to intervein in establishing and maintaining the memory of stress and thus to play an important role in transgenerational effects.

Being grapevine a crop with high economical and societal importance, it is important to tackle the challenges of sustainable production, particularly in the case of the downy mildew disease. With this work we move forward into a research field that is still a black box in the context of grapevine-P.viticola interactions.

What are the next steps?

Next, we aim at conducting a broader study where the role of our candidates’ other key players associated with epigenetic modulation will be assessed.

Read the full paper here.

Get to know the Grapevine-Pathogen Systems Lab here.

From left to right: Gonçalo Pereira, João Pereira, Rita B. Santos, Andreia Figueiredo (authors). Photos provided by the researchers.