Zakharov Lab

Branched-chain amino acid-derived volatile ester biosynthesis in melon


seedling clipartLab members involved in this project: Minmin Wang, Kyung Hwan Boo

Project Summary: Consumer assessment of the flavor and aroma of fruits is greatly influenced by the presence of volatile compounds naturally produced during ripening. Although the importance of volatile compounds in the determination of food and produce quality is well recognized, aroma formation in fruits is a highly complex biological trait that is still poorly understood. Some volatile compounds belonging to the category of esters are abundantly found in the aroma of numerous fruits such as apples, strawberries, bananas and melons. While it is known that in fruits, these volatile esters can arise from the conversion of certain amino acids (the same molecules that are the building blocks of proteins), the precise mechanisms involved in converting amino acids to volatile esters are not yet known. The goal of this research project is to identify the genes involved in this biological process in melon fruits, and to gain a better understanding of how the aroma-forming process is regulated when melons ripen. Since volatile esters are among the most common aroma components in many other fruits, our findings will likely be applicable and transferable to a wide range of fruit crops. This research has direct implications for breeders, geneticists, and the fresh produce industry by providing the basic knowledge required for enhancing fruit flavor quality.

This project is supported by an Agricultural and Food Research Initiative grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (



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