Sunlight modulates fruit metabolic profile and shapes the spatial pattern of compound accumulation within the grape cluster Academic Article uri icon


  • Vineyards are characterized by their large spatial variability of solar irradiance (SI) and temperature, known to effectively modulate grape metabolism. To explore the role of sunlight in shaping fruit composition and cluster uniformity, we studied the spatial pattern of incoming irradiance, fruit temperature and metabolic profile within individual grape clusters under three levels of sunlight exposure. The experiment was conducted in a vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon cv. located in the Negev Highlands, Israel, where excess SI and midday temperatures are known to degrade grape quality. Filtering SI lowered the surface temperature of exposed fruits and increased the uniformity of irradiance and temperature in the cluster zone. SI affected the overall levels and patterns of accumulation of sugars, organic acids, amino acids and phenylpropanoids, across the grape cluster. Increased exposure to sunlight was associated with lower accumulation levels of malate, aspartate, and maleate but with higher levels of valine, leucine, and serine, in addition to the stress-related proline and GABA. Flavan-3-ols metabolites showed a negative response to SI, whereas flavonols were highly induced. The overall levels of anthocyanins decreased with increased sunlight exposure; however, a hierarchical cluster analysis revealed that the members of this family were grouped into three distinct accumulation patterns, with malvidin anthocyanins and cyanidin-glucoside showing contrasting trends. The flavonol-glucosides, quercetin and kaempferol, exhibited a logarithmic response to SI, leading to improved cluster uniformity under high-light conditions. Comparing the within-cluster variability of metabolite accumulation highlighted the stability of sugars, flavan-3-ols, and cinnamic acid metabolites to SI, in contrast to the plasticity of flavonols. A correlation-based network analysis revealed that extended exposure to SI modified metabolic coordination, increasing the number of negative correlations between metabolites in both pulp and skin. This integrated study of micrometeorology and metabolomics provided insights into the grape-cluster pattern of accumulation of 70 primary and secondary metabolites as a function of spatial variations in SI. Studying compound-specific responses against an extended gradient of quantified conditions improved our knowledge regarding the modulation of berry metabolism by SI, with the aim of using sunlight regulation to accurately modulate fruit composition in warm and arid/semi-arid regions.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017