Fungitoxic role of endogenous eugenol in the hybrid grapevine cultivar Baco blanc resistant to <i>Botrytis cinerea</i>

Eugenol (2-methoxy-4-(2-propenyl)-phenol), widely spread in various plants, notably clove, basil and bay, is a well-known antifungal and antibiotic molecule that is abundant in the hybrid grapevine cultivar Baco blanc (Vitis vinifera × Vitis riparia × Vitis labrusca). This variety, created by François Baco (19th century), is confirmed in this study as highly resistant to Botrytis cinerea by comparing fruit rot incidence and severity with two Vitis vinifera cultivars: Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc. According to two major antibiosis modes of action, i.e., direct or volatile, this study demonstrated the efficiency of eugenol in vitro by also investigating precisely the effect on B. cinerea of small concentrations of eugenol, 3 to 4 ppm, corresponding to IC10. Moreover, the vapour-inhibiting effect was shown to be highly powerful. The total eugenol concentration peaked at the veraison stage, exceeding 1000 μg×kg-1 in the skin of Baco blanc berry under our conditions. At this point, leaf removal in the bunch zone induced a significant increase in eugenol (32 %), from 1118 to 1478 μg×kg-1, which was also associated with a significant decrease in B. cinerea infection in the vineyard. Thus, for the first time, eugenol, as an endogenous molecule of Baco blanc, was clearly demonstrated to be an inducible compound in the vineyard. Furthermore, significant intravarietal variability in eugenol concentrations according to the Baco blanc clone was demonstrated to be associated with significant differences in fruit susceptibility to the plant pathogen assessed in biotests. Interestingly, in keeping with fruit ontogenic resistance, a significant negative correlation was established between the technological maturity of berries and the total eugenol content in the berry skin. Finally, the time-progress study of the two biochemical forms of eugenol (bound vs. free eugenol) allowed us to hypothesise the effectiveness against the plant pathogen of some precursor forms of eugenol, and the corresponding biochemical structures are currently being investigated. Thus, eugenol appears to be a key biochemical marker of ontogenic resistance in the hybrid cultivar Baco blanc.

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