Genetics: Rose's Fading Fragrances May be Resurrected by Unexpected Enzyme

First Posted: Jul 03, 2015 07:23 AM EDT

To us, a rose smells sweet. But why is this the case? Scientists have now identified a key enzyme, known as RhNUDX1, which plays an important role in producing the flowers' sweet fragrances.

These ornamental plants, which provide essential oils for perfumes and cosmetics, have been bred mostly for their visual traits. In fact, the rose's once-strong scent has faded over generations. This means that restoring the scent of the rose will require a better understanding of the rose scent biosynthesis pathway.

Until now, most studies of rose fragrance have focused on a biosynthetic pathway that generates pleasant-smelling alcohols, known as monoterpenes, using specific enzymes called terpene synthases. Some scientists have argued that terpene synthases are the sole route to the production of fragrant monoterpenes in planets.

By investigating the genes of two rose cultivars selected for certain desirable characteristics, though, the scientists found that the flowers' fragrances were facilitated by a completely unexpected family of enzymes.

More specifically, the researchers compared the transcriptomes of the Papa Meilland cultivar, which smells very strongly, and the Rogue Meilland cultivar, which produces very little scent, in order to better understand their genetic differences. In the end, they found that RhNUDX1 acts in the cytoplasm of cells located in the flowers' petals and generates the fragrant and well-known monoterpene geraniol, which is the primary component of rose oil.

The latest findings could be used in the future to breed roses that have more of their characteristic scent.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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