Multi-Omics and Integrated Network Analyses Reveal New Insights into the Systems Relationships between Metabolites, Structural Genes, and Transcriptional Regulators in Developing Grape Berries (Vitis vinifera L.) Exposed to Water Deficit Academic Article uri icon


  • Grapes are one of the major fruit crops and they are cultivated in many dry environments. This study comprehensively characterizes the metabolic response of grape berries exposed to water deficit at different developmental stages. Increases of proline, branched-chain amino acids, phenylpropanoids, anthocyanins, and free volatile organic compounds have been previously observed in grape berries exposed to water deficit. Integrating RNA-sequencing analysis of the transcriptome with large-scale analysis of central and specialized metabolites, we reveal that these increases occur via a coordinated regulation of key structural pathway genes. Water deficit-induced up-regulation of flavonoid genes is also coordinated with the down-regulation of many stilbene synthases and a consistent decrease in stilbenoid concentration. Water deficit activated both ABA-dependent and ABA-independent signal transduction pathways by modulating the expression of several transcription factors. Gene-gene and gene-metabolite network analyses showed that water deficit-responsive transcription factors such as bZIPs, AP2/ERFs, MYBs, and NACs are implicated in the regulation of stress-responsive metabolites. Enrichment of known and novel cis-regulatory elements in the promoters of several ripening-specific/water deficit-induced modules further affirms the involvement of a transcription factor cross-talk in the berry response to water deficit. Together, our integrated approaches show that water deficit-regulated gene modules are strongly linked to key fruit-quality metabolites and multiple signal transduction pathways may be critical to achieve a balance between the regulation of the stress-response and the berry ripening program. This study constitutes an invaluable resource for future discoveries and comparative studies, in grapes and other fruits, centered on reproductive tissue metabolism under abiotic stress.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017