Coffee evolved independently from tea or chocolate

Sep 05, 2014, 16:59 IST |

New York: In a significant step to improve the taste of coffee, scientists have sequenced for the first time the genome of the coffee plant.

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, says a new study.

In other words, coffee did not inherit caffeine-linked genes from a common ancestor but instead developed the genes on its own.

Coffee evolved independently from tea or chocolate
Representation picture

“The coffee genome helps us understand what is exciting about coffee - other than that it wakes me up in the morning,” said Victor Albert, a professor of biological sciences at University at Buffalo.

By looking at which families of genes expanded in the plant, and the relationship between the genome structure of coffee and other species, we were able to learn about coffee's independent pathway in evolution, including - excitingly - the story of caffeine, he added.

During the study, the team created a high-quality draft of the genome of Coffea canephora, which accounts for about 30 percent of the world's coffee production.

They looked at how coffee's genetic make-up is distinct from other species.

Researchers found that coffee's caffeine enzymes are more closely related to other genes within the coffee plant than to caffeine enzymes in tea and chocolate.

“Over evolutionary time, the coffee genome was not triplicated as in its relatives: the tomato and chile pepper. Instead, it maintained a structure similar to the grape's,” informed Patrick Wincker, a genome scientists at the French National Sequencing Center (CEA-Genoscope).

The findings appeared in the journal Science.

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