Accumulation of anthocyanins in grape berries is influenced by environmental factors (such as temperature and light) and supply of nutrients, i.e., fluxes of carbon and nitrogen feeding the berry cells. It is established that low nitrogen supply stimulates anthocyanin production in berry skin cells of red varieties.
The present works aims to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the response of anthocyanin accumulation to nitrogen supply in berries from field grown-plants. To this end, we developed an integrated approach combining monitoring of plant nitrogen status, metabolite measurements and transcript analysis.
Grapevines (cv. Cabernet-Sauvignon) were cultivated in a vineyard with three nitrogen fertilization levels (0, 60 and 120 kg ha−1 of nitrogen applied on the soil). Anthocyanin profiles were analyzed and compared with gene expression levels.
Low nitrogen supply caused a significant increase in anthocyanin levels at two ripening stages (26 days post-véraison and maturity). Delphinidin and petunidin derivatives were the most affected compounds.
Transcript levels of both structural and regulatory genes involved in anthocyanin synthesis confirmed the stimulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway.
Genes encoding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), chalcone synthase (CHS), flavonoid-3′,5′-hydroxylase (F3′5′H), dihydroflavonol-4-reductase (DFR), leucoanthocyanidin dioxygenase (LDOX) exhibited higher transcript levels in berries from plant cultivated without nitrogen compared to the ones cultivated with 120 kg ha−1 nitrogen fertilization.
The results indicate that nitrogen controls a coordinated regulation of both positive (MYB transcription factors) and negative (LBD proteins) regulators of the flavonoid pathway in grapevine.
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