Crop Biotech Update

Cancer Scientists Decode Durian Genome

October 11, 2017

Scientists from the Humphrey Oei Institute of Cancer Research, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), and Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore have mapped the complete genetic map of durian, a tropical fruit known as the "king of fruits" in Asia.

The research team mapped the genome of the durian variety Musang King ("Mao Shan Wang" in Chinese), known for its exceptionally delicate texture and potent aroma, considered as the King of Kings in the local durian world. The study revealed that the durian genome comprises approximately 46,000 genes – almost double of the human genome. The evolution of durian was traced revealing its relationship 65 million years back to the cacao plant which is used in chocolate.

The research also focused on durian's notorious smell. By comparing gene activity patterns from different parts of the durian plant, including leaves, roots, and ripening fruits, they identified a class of genes called methionine gamma lyases (MGLs) that regulate the production of odor compounds called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). The analysis revealed that VSC production is turbocharged in durian fruits, confirming claims that durian smell has a ‘sulfury' aspect. The team speculates that in the wild, 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.

For more details, read the NCCS media release.