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New research has been published in the prestigious journal New Phytologist

The missing link in the route of synthesis for the taste and aroma of saffron has been characterized


The missing link in the route of synthesis for the taste and aroma of saffron has been characterized


The Molecular Biology and Molecular Physiology group from the Botanical Institute has characterized the missing link in the route of synthesis for pycrocrocin or the chemical compound responsible for the taste and precursor for aroma in saffron. Data obtained in this research has opened up new perspectives on the industrial production of this compound for its potential use in both the food and pharmaceuticals industries.

Saffron is specialized in producing crocin and pycrocrocin which are just found in a few species of plants: "these apocarotenoids are responsible for the characteristic properties of saffron". The researchers also added that " apart from its unique organoleptic properties, saffron is very beneficial for health" as, according to recent studies, it has proven to be have effective anti-inflammatory properties, it combats ageing and helps scar tissue to form. Saffron, is made up of a complex mixture of over 150 volatile and non-volatile compounds all of which contribute to its general properties" but the medicinal benefits saffron provides are mainly attributed to crocins and pycrocrocins".

The research group asserts that in its research activity against the proliferation of malignant melanoma in humans, adenocarcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma cells has been attributed to pycrocrocin. "A third apocarotenoid, safranal, produced by pycrocrocin, is responsible for the characteristic aroma of saffron".

Until now, the missing enzyme on the biosynthesis route for pycrocrocin had not been clarified: "this enzyme is responsible for pycrocrocin synthesis" and this research by the Molecular Biology and Vegetative Physiology group at the Botanical Institute in which the identification, isolation and biochemical and molecular characterization of the enzyme known as UGT709G1 was described, has recently been published in the prestigious journal, New Phytologist.

"Data obtained in this research, in which the clarification of an enzymatic activity hitherto unknown, has opened up new perspectives for the industrial production of pycrocrocin for its potential use both in the food and pharmaceutical industries", they concluded.

UCLM Communication Office Albacete, 9th of October 2019

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