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New genetic details may help roses come up smelling like, well, roses

‘Old Blush’ genes hold secrets to biochemistry of scent and long-lived blooms

11:00am, April 30, 2018
heirloom rose called Old Blush

OLD BLUSH  An analysis of rose genes, including of those in this heirloom rose called Old Blush, identifies overlooked ways the plants make some of their sweet-smelling compounds.  

There’s new hope for making modern roses smell sweeter than the florist paper they’re wrapped in.

By decoding the genetics of an heirloom variety, a fragrant pink China rose called “Old Blush,” an international team of researchers has uncovered some new targets to tweak. That roster of genes plus an analysis of scent revealed at least 22 previously uncharacterized biochemical steps the plants can use to make terpene compounds, which help give roses their perfume, researchers report April 30 in Nature Ge­­­netics.

Modern roses have had a crazy history of blending genes from eight to 20 species, so decoding the DNA hodgepodge has been difficult. Rose breeders have opted for “showy plants,” says molecular geneticist Mohammed Bendahmane of École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France. In the process, fragrances dwindled, and efforts to build them back

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