The Italian Almanac

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Italian Science - March 26

Italian scientists have uncovered the 'life code' of the pinot noir grape plant, a breakthrough destined to change the future of wine-making. Experts from the San Michele all'Adige Agrarian Institute presented the results of six years of research, in which they decoded the plant's genome - the complex molecular chains that constitute each organism's unique genetic heritage. The institute says the development will make it possible to create new, more resistant grape plants that can produce superior wines.

Pinot noir, which is known as pinot nero in Italy, is the first fruit and only the second food crop, after rice, to have its genetic material laid completely bare. Francesco Salamini, a former researcher with the Max Planck Institute and a member of the San Michele all'Adige Agrarian Institute's board, said the advance will lead to benefits for the environment too. This is because the information about the plant's gene sets will make it possible to produce new pesticides that protect it better but have less of an impact on the ecosystem.

The research shows that the pinot noir genome is spread across 12 chromosomes and is made up of around 500 million bases of DNA. The institute, based in the northern Italian province of Trento, collaborated in the project with the US firm Myriad Genetics Inc., which has taken part in decoding human and rice genomes.