Smelly secret! The truth behind stinky durian

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The scientists have revealed the secret behind a pungent smell of durians, which is known as the king of fruits in the Southeast Asia for its forbidding spiny outward form, flavor and the unique smell.

The durian holds the dubious honor of being arguably the world's smelliest fruit.

Using state-of-the-art sequencing platforms, the team mapped the genome of a particular durian variety called Musang King ("Mao Shan Wang" in Chinese), known for its exceptionally delicate texture and potent aroma and considered as the King of Kings in the local durian world. The fruit resembles Jackfruit and is characterized by a pungent smell that keeps people from trying it out.

Patrick Tan, a geneticist at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, said, "Most of us in Singapore have grown up with the durian, and we are very familiar with it". It was revealed that the fruit contains close to 46,000 genes - double of what humans have - which is around 23,000 genes.

Methionine Gamma Lyases (MGLs), a class of genes present in durian fruit, were found to regulate odour compound production in the fruit. The scientists were also able to trace the evolution of the durian to some 65 million years ago, finding an old relationship between it and the cacao tree, which produces chocolate.

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The researchers said the durian's distinctive odor served an important objective to it in the wild: helping to attract animals to eat it and disperse its seeds.

The technological expertise developed by the scientist might also be used in other related plants especially those plants which have a medicinal value.

"Many of these other durian species are in this part of the world and sadly some are endangered due to the increasing loss of biodiversity".

"This is a long and distinguished history of medicines being discovered from plants". The smell of a ripe durian (Durio zibethinus) has been compared to sweaty socks, roadkill custard, rotten eggs, a gas leak and "a sewer full of rotting pineapples", but still, the fruit has its superfans. "The best example is Taxol, the well-known drug used for treating breast cancer, and it is originally derived from the bark of the Pacific yew", said Soo Khee Chee, Director of the National Centre Singapore.

Scientists in Singapore recently announced they had discovered new information about durian by mapping its genome.

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