Grapevine moth’s effect on grapes

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Image provided by Giuseppe Palmisano

The European grapevine moth, Lobesia botrana, is a major pest that can take down vineyards. In a recent Molecular & Cellular Proteomics paper, a group of researchers studied the proteome of grapes before and during infection with the moth to understand how the proteome and its post-translation modifications change. The hope is to eventually identify proteins that make grapevines susceptible to infection and the ones that jump in to fight off the infection.

The European grapevine moth is native to southern Italy but has spread to vineyards in the U.S., South America and Japan with unwelcome economic consequences. The moth first showed up in California’s Napa Valley in October 2009.  By spring 2010, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced a quarantine of 162 square miles that included parts of Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties because of L. botrana infection.

Synthetic insecticides are used to control the moth’s spread, but they are not a cure-all. In chatting with southern Italian grapevine growers, Giuseppe Palmisano at the University of Southern Denmark, a native southern Italian, says he “noticed that this moth is still a big challenge for grapevine growers.”

Palmisano explains that to date grapevine infection has been studied primarily at the genomic level. “But nothing, until now, was known about the molecular mechanisms of L. botrana infection on grapevine,” he says.

So, in collaboration with researchers at CRA-UTV, a specialized Italian research center focused on agriculture, Palmisano and colleagues used mass spectrometry to study the changes in grape proteomes when they were infected. Besides looking at the changes in protein expression, the investigators also looked at protein modifications such as phosphorylation, glycosylation and acetylation, because they are the key players in modulating the biological responses to various stimuli.

Palmisano and colleagues found 899 grape proteins that were significantly changed in abundance after infection. The proteins were involved in activities such as metabolism, disease and defense, and protein synthesis. While looking at post-translation modifications, the investigators identified a new lysine acetylation motif in plants, X-K-Y-X.

“This study represents the first protein post-translational modifications inventory in grapevine,” says Palmisano. He cautions that the data “do not give us a definitive solution to defeat L. botrana,” but he adds that the work “improves our knowledge of the grape immune system.”

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