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Coffee genome sheds light on the evolution of caffeine

The newly sequenced genome of the coffee plant has revealed secrets about the evolution of caffeine. The scientists who completed the project say the sequences and positions of genes in the coffee plant show that they evolved independently from genes with similar functions in tea and chocolate, which also make caffeine. In other words, coffee did not inherit caffeine-linked genes from a common ancestor, but instead developed the genes on its own.

The research was published in the journal Science on 5th September 2014. A video explaining the findings ican be viewed at http://bit.ly/1lD4LNQ.

Why coffee?

With more than 2.25 billion cups consumed daily worldwide, coffee is the principal agricultural product of many tropical countries. According to estimates by the International Coffee Organization, more than 8.7 million tons of coffee were produced in 2013, revenue from exports amounted to $15.4 billion in 2009-2010, and the sector employed nearly 26 million people in 52 countries during 2010.

“Coffee is as important to everyday early risers as it is to the global economy. Accordingly, a genome sequence could be a significant step toward improving coffee,” said Philippe Lashermes, a researcher at the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD). “By looking at the coffee genome and genes specific to coffee, we were able to draw some conclusions about what makes coffee special.”

 

 

Story source: University at Buffalo, 4 Sep 2014

Journal Reference: France Denoeud et al. The coffee genome provides insight into the convergent evolution of caffeine biosynthesis. Science, September 2014 DOI:10.1126/science.1255274

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