Why a genetic database

When initiating a project of molecular identification of Greek cultivars of Vitis vinifera by microsatellite profiling, we realised that there was no pre-existing and exhaustive record of Greek cultivars. Plants as well as the information relative to these plants were scattered in several ampelographic collections and in two or three books, which run out of print long ago. An initial step would then have been to gather all the possible information about these Greek cultivars and in the most exhaustive way. Another requirement was also to present this information in a way also accessible to non-Greek speakers. These initial observations were the spark that led to the development of the Greek Vitis Database. We tried here to present all the possible information about Greek cultivars including genetic data and ampelographic data. The databases will be upgraded permanently along with the production and publication of new data.

The second step was the choice of the molecular markers to be used. This choice was oriented by the recent availability, at the time of undertaking this work, of microsatellite markers developed by the teams of Mark Thomas (CSIRO, Adelaide, Australia), Carole Meredith (University of California, Davis, USA) and Herta Steinkellner (University of Agriculture, Vienna, Austria) and by the set-up of the Vitis Microsatellite Consortium by the company Agrogene (France), which triggered an international effort of providing more microsatellite markers. People not familiar with microsatellites may consult the bibliography and the other links for useful reading.

Briefly, microsatellites are DNA regions of the repeated DNA. They have the advantages to be evenly scattered through the genome, to be present in thousands of unique loci, which can be specifically amplified from their conserved flanking regions. They are highly polymorphic which is the main required feature of a good molecular marker, but they are also co-dominant, which enables to discriminate homozygous and heterozygous states as well as allowing to retrieve pedigrees. Finally they are widely viewed as selectively neutral. From a technical point of view, if the development costs are high, they are of an easy use and easy to standardize between different laboratories which facilitates results comparison, provided allele sizing has been previously standardised.

The use of microsatellite markers provides for the first time an estimation of genetic relationships between the Greek cultivars. The fact that we use SSR markers which have been used at the same time for analysing other European cultivars, make our results comparable to those of other European teams and allows comparison of genetic profiles between laboratories.

The results tables from the three genetic databases may be copied and pasted in an Excel worksheet for subsequent use with population genetics programmes.

The use of the databases content is free provided the source of information, that is to say the Greek Vitis Database is acknowledged as such (see Reference).

We hope that this Greek Vitis database will be a very practical tool for all scientists and other people interested in the Greek genetic resources of Vitis vinifera