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What makes the durian fruit stink?

Nature Genetics

October 10, 2017

The full genome sequence of the durian fruit is reported in a paper published online this week in Nature Genetics. This reference provides molecular insight into the genes and metabolic processes responsible for the singular taste and smell of the durian fruit.

The fruit of tropical durian (Durio zibethinus) is prized as a delicacy for its unique flavor profile and pungent smell, often likened to onions and sulfur.

Bin Tean Teh, Patrick Tan, and colleagues assembled a high-quality reference genome from a Musang King durian fruit stalk using complementary single-molecule DNA sequencing and chromosome scaffolding techniques. Comparative analyses with other related plants, including cacao and cotton, reveal an ancient whole-genome duplication event in durian that is likely shared with cotton. The authors also analyze gene expression during fruit ripening and find higher levels of activity for sulfur metabolism genes in fruit versus non-fruit organs. More copies of genes involved in volatile sulfur compound biosynthesis can be found in durian than in its close relatives, suggesting that this evolutionary expansion underlies the aroma of the fruit.

Different species and cultivars of durian have different taste profiles and degrees of pungency. The genome sequence and analysis of sulfur metabolism genes shed light on these features and will be important resources for the durian industry.

doi: 10.1038/ng.3972

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