Nez x GDR O3 – Smelling of roses

Cette publication est également disponible en : Français

We recently announced the launch of a partnership between GDR O3 and Nez. It gives us the perfect opportunity to offer you a regular round-up of the studies resulting from the work undertaken by the research group and its team of scientists from every field with a common focus: odour in all its forms.
The idea? Nez reads the scientific publications, and offers you a simpler, more accessible version.
For example, did you know that a better understanding of the origin of the rose’s fragrance would pave the way for innovations both in cosmetics and pharmacy? This is, among other things, what the CNRS research engineer and member of the GDR O3 Benoît Boachon explained to us.

There is one odour everyone finds it easy to detect and everyone enjoys: the smell of the rose, the undisputed queen of flowers. But, until recently, we had no idea about the origin of its captivating scent. Sylvie Baudino, head of the CNRS laboratory for plant biotechnologies applied to aromatic and medicinal plants (LBVpam) at Université Jean Monnet, led an initial study published in 2015 in Science magazine that made it possible to identify a key enzyme – NUDX1 hydrolase – involved in the synthesis of geraniol and other terpenes that help to create the rose’s olfactory signature. We talked about the study in the Nez#07 – The Animal Sense Odorama.

More recently, research by Benoît Boachon of LBVpam, as part of Corentin Conart’s thesis directed by Jean-Claude Caissard, has revealed the upstream enzyme for NUDX1 hydrolase that provides its substrate. They have studied its evolution in order to understand how it acquired the role of producing the precursor to these scented molecules, a phenomenon unique to the rose. 

Unlike most plants, the geranyl diphosphate (GDP) involved in the synthesis of geraniol is not produced in the chloroplasts by the enzyme known as GPP synthase in rose flowers, but by an enzyme present in the cytosol, the liquid part of the cells. This bifunctional enzyme, called GFPP synthase 1 (G/FPPS1), actually produces both GPP and farnesyl diphosphate (FDP), another essential precursor in the synthesis of terpenoids such as sesquiterpenes and plant sterols. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), also highlights the fact that the bifunctional G/FPPS1  is present in all members of the Rosaceae family.

While these results might appear of little interest to non-specialists, Benoît Boachon explains that “this discovery improves our understanding of how certain plants produce scents via an alternate metabolic pathway, opening the way to a re-examination of the generally accepted belief about plants; it may also have implications for the perfumery, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.” This is because “synthetic biology and metabolic engineering are increasingly used to produce targeted molecules from plants, sometimes rare ones, using yeast, for example, without organic synthesis. The discovery of this previously unknown biosynthesis pathway could, therefore, be used to produce perfumes more efficiently from yeast. Geraniol is also a precursor for certain anti-cancer molecules, such as vinblastine, produced by harvesting Madagascar periwinkle. This discovery will also help improve understanding of how aromas from terpenes are produced in the fruits of the Rosaceae species.”

We don’t know what you think, but we feel the outlook has never been rosier!

Main visual: © Adèle Chévara


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

With the support of our principal partners