Floral scent is one of the most important characters in horticultural plants. Roses (Rosa spp.) have been cultivated for their scent since antiquity. However, probably by selecting for cultivars with long vase life, breeders have lost the fragrant character in many modern roses, especially the ones bred for the cut flower market. The genetic inheritance of scent characters has remained elusive so far. In-depth knowledge of this quantitative trait is thus very much needed to breed more fragrant commercial cultivars. Furthermore, rose hybrids harbor a composite genomic structure, which complexifies quantitative trait studies. To understand rose scent inheritance, we characterized a segregating population from two diploid cultivars, Rosa x hybrida cv H190 and Rosa wichurana, which have contrasting scent profiles. Several quantitative trait loci for the major volatile compounds in this progeny were identified. One among these loci contributing to the production of 2-phenylethanol, responsible for the characteristic odor of rose, was found to be colocalized with a candidate gene belonging to the 2-phenylethanol biosynthesis pathway: the PHENYLACETALDEHYDE SYNTHASE gene RhPAAS. An in-depth allele-specific expression analysis in the progeny demonstrated that only one allele was highly expressed and was responsible for the production of 2-phenylethanol. Unexpectedly, its expression was found to start early during flower development, before the production of the volatile 2-phenylethanol, leading to the accumulation of glycosylated compounds in petals.

Source link