Crop Biotech Update

Preserving a World Favorite Flavor

April 20, 2011

Vanilla planifolia, the source of the vanillin flavor used in food, can now be grown through micropropagation. The perennial orchid is propagated through a labor intensive, time-consuming and not economical method of stem cuttings. Scientists in the School of Biosciences on the University Malaysia's campus (UNMC) have developed the tissue culture method of propagation but found that there were variations in the sub-clones of one parental line, creating sub quality off-types. Scientists Peter Alderson and Chin Chiew Foan of UNMC were provided a grant to use DNA marker systems to investigate how these mutations occur.

Dr. Chin Chiew Foan said: "Our research will help to provide a tool for tracking abnormality of growth occurring in tissue culture and will also attempt to understand how such abnormalities can occur after a number of cycles of subculturing in tissue culture. Currently, we are developing a tool that will explore the internal RNA sequence region to detect sequence variations. Our initial results indicate that some variability of DNA fragments exists among the tissue culture samples under study. We are sending these DNA fragments for sequencing to reveal the level of mutations that has taken place."

The news article can be viewed at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/pressreleases/2011/april/vanilla.aspx.