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Scientists unlock the secret to roses aroma

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as Shakespeare wrote, but erase just one little molecule in their flowers and you’d be lucky to catch a whiff of anything at all. In recent decades, commercial gardeners have bred roses that grow in different colors, are more insect-resistant, and have a longer vase life. But that manipulation has a trade-off: more visually appealing flowers often lose their strong aromatic fragrances. 

What do roses need to make their pleasant odors, and more importantly, how do we get them back? A new study published Monday in PNAS identified a key enzyme called farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) synthase, crucial for driving the reaction that creates a rose’s fresh and floral scent. The findings could help with finding a way to create more mesmerizing and beautiful roses. 

A chemical called geraniol is responsible for the sweet scent we associate with roses. Roses make the compound through a chemical reaction that involves FPP synthase plus several other enzymes. The process involves NUDX1 hydrolase, an enzyme found in the liquid interior of plant cells, or cytosol, that make up the rose petals. To create a strong and sweet aroma, flowers need a ton of NUDX1 hydrolase activity. This is only possible when there is enough of a binding molecule called geranyl diphosphate (GPP). GPP glues to the enzyme and propels it into action. 


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