Health Care

Scientists reveal origins of durian fruit's pungent aroma

Scientists reveal origins of durian fruit's pungent aroma”

Scientists have discovered the secret behind the notorious pungent odour of the durian fruit, by deciphering the complete genetic map of the world's smelliest fruit for the first time.

Scientists in Singapore said on Monday they have mapped the genome of the durian, known throughout Southeast Asia as the "king of fruits" for its unique smell, flavour and formidable spiny appearance.

But the researchers were really interested in the source of the smell, so in snooping around the genome for odor-producing compounds, they found a class of genes called MGLs (methionine gamma lyases) in the leaves, roots and fruits of durian plants. The genes were found to lead the production of Volatile Sulphur Compounds - a type of odourous compounds - in the fruit. The smell gets more pungent when it ripens.

The smell of durian has been described by some as "turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock" — and scientists have now unlocked the biology behind its infamous aroma which could eventually lead to a better smelling variety.

The team's analysis revealed that the durian genome comprises of about 46,000 genes - nearly double that in humans, who have about 23,000 genes.

"Most of us in Singapore have grown up with the durian, and we are very familiar with it", said geneticist Patrick Tan, a professor at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. This means VSC production is "turbocharged" in durian fruits, Teh said.

The odour, scientists said, helps the fruit serve an essential objective in the wild - it attracts animals to consume it and then disperse the seeds. Some love it, others hate it.

Other surprising discoveries from the study included that durians have 46,000 genes, twice what humans possess, and that the fruit's lineage could be traced back 65 million years to the cacao plant. "For those who have never experienced durian before, it can indeed elicit opposing emotions of devotion and revulsion".

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