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. Researchers, including those from National Cancer Centre Singapore, mapped the genome of a particular durian variety called Musang King, known for its exceptionally delicate texture and potent aroma and considered as the King of Kings in the local durian world. The team's analysis revealed that the durian genome comprises of about 46,000 genes - almost double that in humans, who have about 23,000 genes. The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, also focused on "what causes the durian's notorious smell?" By comparing gene activity patterns from different parts of the durian plant, researchers identified a class of genes called methionine gamma lyases (MGLs) that regulate the production of odour compounds called volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs). "Our analysis revealed that VSC production is turbocharged in durian fruits, which fits with many people's opinions that durian smell has a 'sulphury' aspect," said Patrick Tan, professor at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. The ability of durians to produce high VSC levels and a pungent smell may be important in attracting animals to eat and disperse durian seeds to other regions, researchers said. Based on the newly generated genomic data, the team also studied the evolution of durian and traced its relationship 65 million years back to the cacao plant, which produces chocolate. The technological expertise developed by the team may also be applied to other plants, including those that may be of medicinal value, researchers said.
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