Italians crack the pinot noir code

The creation of hybrid lines of grapes goes on around the globe. But what happens if researchers digging ever deeper into the science of grapes finally crack the genetic code of the famously fickle pinot noir grape and begin tinkering?

That day is here. Researchers at Italy's Istituto Agrario San Michele all’Adige this week announced they have mapped the pinot noir genome and may some day be able to breed disease-resistant grapes without losing taste.

Riccardo Velasco, head of genetics at the institute, told the journal PLoS ONE, "Discovering these 2 million molecular markers is a tremendous tool which will help in the breeding not only of pinot noir but every cultivated grape variety.”

Velasco said the genome had been mapped in draft form before, but he and his team are the first to catalog the myriad single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, found scattered among its 30,000 genes. SNPs are single-letter changes in the genetic code. And, he said, the team also has identified a large number of genes related to disease resistance, 289 of which contain SNPs.

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