Better wine through genomics: Rochester boffins discover wine grape bacteria

As world populations continue to climb and food sources become more and more crucial to protect from all threats, it is good to know that someone’s taking the wine seriously.

Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in cooperation with an international team of boffins, have isolated the genomic structure of bacteria which are commonly found hosted in Riesling wine grape vines. They have also discovered another bacteria commonly found populating sugarcane crops. The information for these two pests has been submitted to the GenBank: a National Institutes of Health database of genomic structures. From there, other researchers can use the RIT team’s research to further their own studies:

“We assembled millions of short DNA sequences into long sequences and made biological sense out of them,” Gan says. “Having the near complete genetic information from a bacteria will bring us to a new level of research.”

“We can tease out information based on the genome of the organism that live inside the plant,” Hudson adds. “The question is, why are these bacteria living in the plants? Are they destroying the plants or are they providing a benefit? Are they providing nutrients that are helping the plant grow, like plant hormones, phosphorous or nitrogen? Is it a mutualistic relationship where the plant and bacteria are both benefiting?”

One researcher is Professor Andre Hudson, whose work with protein folding structures in algae has been previously reported on by DFE.

The research into these two pests goes well beyond applications to wine or sugar cane. The Methylobacterium and Novosphingobium bacteria studied in grape vines, for example, is a pest that feeds on the xylem inside plants. Xylem is the vascular system of a plant, allowing nutrients and waste to pass through the plant as necessary. Understanding the nature of this bacteria may unlock secrets that help grow a wide variety of other crops more efficiently.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.