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Study looks at drought response in grapes

January 24, 2011  By South Dakota State University

sddroughtgrapesNEWS HIGHLIGHT

Study looks at drought response in grapes
A student’s scholarship-winning project at South Dakota State
University may help scientists better understand how grapes and other plants
respond to drought.

January 20, 2011,
Brookings, SD – A student’s scholarship-winning project at South Dakota State
may help scientists better understand how grapes and other plants
respond to drought.


The study could pay off in
better production as plant breeders develop varieties for regions facing
increased drought stress due to climate change.

Kimberley Vaughn, right,
won the Joseph F. Nelson Graduate Scholarship at South Dakota State University
for her work with professor Anne Fennell, left. Victor’s study of North
American grapevine species response to drought could help the grape industry
worldwide prepare for increasing water stress due to climate change.

Kimberley (Victor) Vaughn
won the 2011 Joseph F. Nelson Graduate Scholarship at SDSU for the ongoing
research, which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

“Current predictions of
climate change will force wineries to adjust to drier conditions worldwide,”
Vaughn said. “Grapevines are one of the most economically important and widely
cultivated crops in the U.S. and internationally. The billion-dollar grape
industry is the sixth-leading crop in the U.S. and we rank third in production
worldwide. A study of the whole-plant responses and differential gene
expression of vascular bundles of grape roots to drought stress could
significantly impact how the grape industry prepares for climatic changes.”

Vaughn is carrying out the
research with SDSU professor Anne Fennell, a specialist in grapes and woody
plants in SDSU’s Department of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks. She
is isolating cells from Vitis riparia grape root tissues under drought stress
by using a technique called laser capture microdissection, or LCM.

In addition to her work at
SDSU, Vaughn is participating in an ongoing collaboration through the National
Science Foundation
-funded Grape Research Coordination Network. That program has
enabled Vaughn to travel to the University of Nevada, Reno, in order to observe
drought stress studies, learn how to analyze drought stress signaling
metabolite data, and work with researchers there on integrating their
metabolite data with SDSU’s transcript data.

Vitis riparia is a grape
species native to North America that grows over a wide geographic area and is
subject to a range of environmental stresses. It was one of the rootstocks imported
to Europe to help vines there recover from the phylloxera epidemic of the late
19th century. It is a riverbank grape and so is commonly not thought to be

“With the global climate
change increasing concern about water use, we were interested in looking at
what was Vitis riparia’s response to a water deficit, or decreasing water
amounts, and what signaling was taking place between the roots and the shoots,”
Fennell explained. “It’s been hypothesized by some researchers that a key component
of drought response signaling takes place in the root parenchyma cells.”

The SDSU researchers are
trying to learn more about the drought signaling mechanism by using a laser
capture microscopy unit that allows them to identify and examine specific cells.

“If we fix the tissue
correctly, we can capture the cells and capture the information in those cells
by extracting RNA, which is the DNA converted to message. We can look at the
message, say, between a drought-stressed and a non-stressed plant and identify
what’s going on in the drought-stress process,” Fennell said.

Vaughn will then use a
whole grape genome microarray — somewhat like a “molecular portrait,” since it
monitors differences in the gene expression for many thousands of genes at one
time — to determine how cells of the grape plant under stress are responding
compared to a plant that isn’t facing drought stress.

The study will generate
data that can be compared to other grape genotypes that are more tolerant of
water stress.

“It’s valuable for grapes
because we’re concerned about sustainability of our crops and water use and the
interaction of that roots stock and the top part of the plant that produces the
fruit. But it’s also important for providing information for people working on other
crops,” Fennell said. “It can give information, say, for somebody that’s
working in alfalfa — is this the right tissue to be looking at, what is the
signaling that’s going on?”

Vaughn has won a
scholarship amount of $4,450, plus tuition and fees, for the work. She is on
track to graduate from SDSU in August 2011 with a master’s degree in biological
sciences with a specialization in horticulture.

The Joseph F. Nelson
Graduate Scholarship is awarded to a South Dakota State University graduate
student in part on the strength of original research in physics, chemistry,
physical geography, biology, soils, geology, mathematics or other physical





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