White and red grapes
The wild grape is red. During the domestication of the grape a white cultivar developed. This may have occurred 3,000 or so years age. In 2005 Japanese scientists showed that this colour change occurred because of a mutation in the VvMYBA1 gene. This difference is consistent over the whole grape range, between red and white grapes. The gene controls the production of the red colour anthocyanin. This colour is also found in apples, strawberries, purple cabbage and blueberries
More recently Mandy Walker and her colleagues in the Commonwealth Research Organisation in Australia showed two genes along side each other which control anthocyanin production. Both must be mutated in the white grape.
This suggests that all the white grapes have a common ancestor. Seeds of white grapes have been fond in the tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankamen ( 1322 BC ). So the mutation antedates this.
This was reviewed by Stephen Pincock in FT magazine March 3, 2007, p 11
- Martin Eastwood