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article imageMaking roses smell good again, enzymes at play

By Tim Sandle     Jul 3, 2015 in Science
In the summer, the smell of roses, especially as the evening draw in, is one of the highlights. Once the smell fades, the aroma is gone forever. However, a key enzyme may be able to kick-start the distinctive scent.
A rose is a woody stemmed plant that can be shrubs, climbing or trailing; many of which are ornamental plants. What is most distinctive is the brightly colored flower. The flower has a distinctive scent, enjoyed by people in gardens. It is also the basis of a perfume made from attar of roses or rose oil. It is one of the oldest perfumes too, rose oil was probably first made in 10th century Persia.
Scientists have pinpointed an enzyme, with the clunky name of RhNUDX1. This biochemical mechanism plays an important function in making the sweet fragrance of the rose flower.
Over time a rose will lose its scent, especially as the flower fades. Another interesting point is that botanists think that as roses have been cultivated over time, moving from wild plants to ornamental types sold in garden centers, they do not have the intensity of fragrance that they once had.
A research group has been looking at ways to restore the scent, through generations, and to make it longer lasting. This is based on the RhNUDX1 enzyme. To do so needs a detailed understanding of the rose scent biosynthesis pathway.
Most research to date has been with alcohols, which are considered to be the basis of the rose scent. A particular alcohol called monoterpene, controlled by an enzyme called terpene synthase has long been linked to the creation of the "rose smell."
This scent producing mechanism has recently been challenged and more enzymes and more complex biosynthesis is thought to be at play. Looking at two roses: Papa Meilland, which is noted for a very strong smell; and Rogue Meilland, which has a very weak smell, researchers think that the enzyme responsible is RhNUDX1. The enzyme is considered to act upon cells found in the flowers' petals, triggering them to release oil.
Based on this, it is hoped to use the RhNUDX1 gene to create more appealing and longer lasting scents in a range of different cultivars.
The study has been reported to the journal Science. The research paper is called “Biosynthesis of monoterpene scent compounds in roses.”
More about Roses, Scent, Enzymes, Chemicals, Aroma
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