Dual domestication process in grapevine

A study involving researchers from the CBGP (Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics) belonging to the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has determined for the first time that the process of domestication of grapevine is double. For this study they have analyzed the evolution and domestication process with 2448 genomes of grapevine samples collected in 23 institutions in 16 countries of the Mediterranean basin and East Asia.

The researchers establish that the successive glacial episodes that happened during the Pleistocene split sylvestris into eastern and western ecotypes. The last glacial advance produced the division of the eastern ecotype into two groups that gave rise to a process of dual domestication in grapevine. This process occurred about 11,000 years ago in the Near East and South Caucasus to produce table and wine grapevine, respectively. Despite being separated by more than 1000 km, the two processes of domestication seem to have occurred simultaneously as indicated by the genetic traces of selection in different genes involved in the domestication of grapevine.

The researchers found that although the domestication of the South Caucasus is associated with early winemaking, it had limited diffusion and very little additional influence, but the domestication of the Near East came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin thanks to human trade routes that has been a key factor in promoting gene flow of this specie. The authors state that the origin of wine in Western Europe is associated with cross-fertilization (introgression) between wild populations of Western Europe and domesticated grapes originating in the Near East that were initially used as food sources. This introgression that took place during the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods gave rise to unique ancestors in the Balkans, Iberia and Western Europe regions. These events reflect the early migration of farmers in Europe, cementing the role of viticulture in the formation of sedentary societies.

The spread of domesticated plants from the Near East into new European environments is associated with a requirement for adaptation. Gene flow from wild populations into domesticated forms can be hard to avoid and supplies both locally adapted variation and a resurgence of wild traits. The adaptive introgression is associated with a change in use. In grapes, adaptations to the environment have been acquired that are associated with water stress and disease resistance. However, such introgressions also carried wild traits that compromise edibility. Compared with table grapes, wine grapes are smaller and thick skinned and have lower sugar content. These traits are more similar to those of wild grapes, which also makes them more suited for winemaking and less appealing for eating.

The authors demonstrate the important role of grapevine in the early onset of agriculture throughout Eurasia and conclude that glacial cycles and wild adaptations shaped grape domestication and the rise of wine.


Original Paper:

Dong, Y., Duan, S., Xia, Q., Liang, Z., Dong, X., Margaryan, K., Musayev, M., Goryslavets, S., Zdunić, G., Bert, P.-F., Lacombe, T., Maul, E., Nick, P., Bitskinashvili, K., Bisztray, G.D., Drori, E., De Lorenzis, G., Cunha, J., Popescu, C.F., Arroyo-Garcia, R., Arnold, C., Ergül, A., Zhu, Yifan, Ma, C., Wang, Shufen, Liu, S., Tang, L., Wang, C., Li, D., Pan, Y., Li, J., Yang, L., Li, X., Xiang, G., Yang, Z., Chen, B., Dai, Z., Wang, Yi, Arakelyan, A., Kuliyev, V., Spotar, G., Girollet, N., Delrot, S., Ollat, N., This, P., Marchal, C., Sarah, G., Laucou, V., Bacilieri, R., Röckel, F., Guan, P., Jung, A., Riemann, M., Ujmajuridze, L., Zakalashvili, T., Maghradze, D., Höhn, M., Jahnke, G., Kiss, E., Deák, T., Rahimi, O., Hübner, S., Grassi, F., Mercati, F., Sunseri, F., Eiras-Dias, J., Dumitru, A.M., Carrasco, D., Rodriguez-Izquierdo, A., Muñoz, G., Uysal, T., Özer, C., Kazan, K., Xu, M., Wang, Yunyue, Zhu, S., Lu, J., Zhao, M., Wang, L., Jiu, S., Zhang, Y., Sun, L., Yang, H., Weiss, E., Wang, Shiping, Zhu, Youyong, Li, S., Sheng, J., Chen, W. 2023. Dual domestications and origin of traits in grapevine evolution. Science 379, 892–901. DOI: 10.1126/science.add8655