Indian-American led team manipulate fruit flavours

August 21st, 2008 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 21 (IANS) A team led by Indian-origin biochemist C.S. Raman will soon fine tune enzymes that impart specific flavours to fruits and vegetables. This could also lead to eco-friendly pest control.Texas University Medical School’s Raman and his colleagues genetically manipulated flavour enzymes found in a popular plant model, Arabidopsis thaliana.

The enzymes, allene oxide synthase (AOS) and hydroperoxide lyase (HPL), produce jasmonate (responsible for scent in jasmine) and green leaf volatiles (GLV) respectively. GLVs confer characteristic aromas on fruits and vegetables. GLV and jasmonates emitted by plants also serve to ward off predators.

“Mind you plants can’t run away from bugs and other pests,” Raman said. “They need to deal with them. One of the things they do is release volatile substances into the air to attract predators of bugs.

“Genetic engineering / modification (GM) of green leaf volatile production hold significant potential for formulating environmentally friendly pest-control strategies,” the co-author of the study added. “It also has important implications for manipulating food flavour.

“For example, virgin olive oil aroma stems from the volatiles synthesized by olives. By modifying the activity of enzymes that generate these substances, it may be possible to alter the flavour of the resulting oils. Our work shows how you can convert one enzyme to another and, more importantly, provides needed information for modifying GLV production in plants.”

The study also dispels the earlier view that these flavour-producing enzymes are only found in plants, Raman continued. “We have discovered they are also present in marine animals, such as sea anemone and corals. However, we do not know what they do in these organisms.”

These findings were published online in Nature.

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