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Advances in molecular genetics enable a novel approach termed "intragenics" (also known as “green genetic engineering” or “precision breeding”), in which grape genes are rearranged to create highly desirable seedless and fruit rot-resistant muscadine cultivars.

Intragenic technology differs from transgenic technology in that it uses only genetic elements from the host plant, in this case grape.  As a result, intragenic cultivars contain no foreign genes or DNA.  While conventional breeding could achieve these same genetic modifications, it would likely require many years. The application of intragenic technology is theorized to be ecologically-friendly and acceptable to consumers.

This project began in 2008 when the University of Florida/IFAS Grape Biotechnology Laboratory achieved the pivotal step of genetically engineering muscadine grape (see publication).  This breakthrough now allows us to explore the application of intragenics to create seedless, rot-resistant cultivars. These cultivars will have the potential to produce a new, exportable, fruit crop for the southeastern United States. Furthermore, the technology developed through this project may certainly be useful for the improvement of many other crops.

The Muscadine Genetic Improvement Project has been endorsed by the Commissioners of Agriculture for Florida and the US Virgin Islands.  In addition, the largest muscadine grape grower in the world (Paulk Vineyards in Georgia), two key growers in the US Virgin Islands (Nash and Echo farms) and Florida's largest winery (Lakeridge) have also endorsed the project.

News & Announcements

- Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Viticulture Trust Fund grants $44k to support intragenic Muscadine project (9/12 - 9/13)

- 2.2M funding of Muscadine intragenic project awarded by USDA/NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative grants program  (5/11)

- Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Viticulture Trust Fund grants $78k to support intragenic Muscadine project (9/10 - 9/12)

- Presentation on “Intragenic Grapevines” at International Horticultural Congress on Horticultural Crop Genomics, Lisbon Portugal  (8/10)

- Grapevines with seedless and rot resistance genes in geenhouse tests (6/10)

- Seedless gene successfully inserted into 'Delicious' (2/10)

- Anthocyanin ingene successfully inserted into ‘Delicious’ for use as a marker gene  (11/09)

- Muscadine grape cultivar 'Southern Jewel' released  (10/09)

- Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Viticulture Trust Fund grants $53k to support intragenic Muscadine project  (9/09)

- Muscadine grape cultivar 'Delicious' released  (2/09)

- Refereed journal publication concerning transformation of Muscadine grape Plant Cell Rep 27:865–872 (6/08)

Visit mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/grapes/genetics to download articles and presentations