Experts Reveal the Secret behind Durian Fruit's Unbearable Pungent Smell

REVEALED: Secret behind durian fruit's pungent smell

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. Experts at the National Cancer Center Singapore studied a variety of durian fruit called Musang King and mapped its genome.

Professor Teh is the lead author of a study, published today in Nature Genetics, which has identified key genes that are responsible for the fruit's pungent smell and strong taste. The team's analysis revealed that the durian genome comprises approximately 46,000 genes-almost double that in humans who have about 23,000 genes. They also tracked the fruit's evolution back to 65 million years to the relationship with an ancient cacao tree, which provides seeds for chocolate production. It is regarded as the king of kings in the local durian world.

Scientists have dealt with the million-dollar question as to what actually causes the durian's stinking odour?

With the fruit's whole-genome sequence in hand, the researchers focused on a particular gene that regulates the production of sulphur compounds, which give off a rotten gas smell.

Patrick Tan, a geneticist at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, said, "Most of us in Singapore have grown up with the durian, and we are very familiar with it".

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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.

The technological expertise developed by the team may also be applied to other plants, including those that may be of medicinal value.

"This is a long and distinguished history of medicines being discovered from plants". These become more active as the durian fruit ripens, which is why it emits a particularly strong smell.

To take a better look at the plant, researchers in the study sequenced the genome of the popular durian species Durio zibethinus and then took an in-depth look at its RNA. "DNA sequencing is thus an important tool to protect the precious information contained in these fascinating and important plants", said Teh.

The team has donated the durian genome data to the National Parks Board, where they hope to spur further durian research and its knowledge in Singapore.

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