Understanding temporal biological phenomena is a challenging task that can be approached using network analysis. Here, we explored whether network reconstruction can be used to better understand the temporal dynamics of bois noir, which is associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, and is one of the most widespread phytoplasma diseases of grapevine in Europe. We proposed a methodology that explores the temporal network dynamics at the community level, i.e., densely connected subnetworks. The methodology offers both insights into the functional dynamics via enrichment analysis at the community level, and analyses of the community dissipation, as a measure that accounts for community degradation. We validated this methodology with cases on experimental temporal expression data of uninfected grapevines and grapevines infected with ‘Ca. P. solani’. These data confirm some known gene communities involved in this infection. They also reveal several new gene communities and their potential regulatory networks that have not been linked to ‘Ca. P. solani’ to date. To confirm the capabilities of the proposed method, selected predictions were empirically evaluated.
Bois noir is the most widespread phytoplasma grapevine disease in Europe. It is associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, but molecular interactions between the causal pathogen and its host plant are not well understood. In this work, we combined the analysis of high-throughput RNA-Seq and sRNA-Seq data with interaction network analysis for finding new cross-talks among pathways involved in infection of grapevine cv. Zweigelt with ‘Ca. P. solani’ in early and late growing seasons. While the early growing season was very dynamic at the transcriptional level in asymptomatic grapevines, the regulation at the level of small RNAs was more pronounced later in the season when symptoms developed in infected grapevines. Most differentially expressed small RNAs were associated with biotic stress. Our study also exposes the less-studied role of hormones in disease development and shows that hormonal balance was already perturbed before symptoms development in infected grapevines. Analysis at the level of communities of genes and mRNA-microRNA interaction networks revealed several new genes (e.g., expansins and cryptdin) that have not been associated with phytoplasma pathogenicity previously. These novel actors may present a new reference framework for research and diagnostics of phytoplasma diseases of grapevine.