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April 16, 2024

Peaches may provide new biofuel

By CAROLYN ZIN | April 4, 2013

Mothers constantly remind their children that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, assuring that eating fruits and vegetables is important for having a healthy lifestyle. However, recent discoveries have shown that crops such as fruits may serve as much more than just a daily source of vitamins. On top of providing nutritious supplements, fruits have been recently found to be an excellent source for fuel.

Along with his team of researchers, Jeremy Schmutz, head of the Plant Program at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, published in a recent edition of Nature Genetics, the genome of Prunus persica, a species of the peach. Schmutz’s team chose to map the peach genome because it is one of the best genetically characterized deciduous trees. Peaches are part of a family that includes different other fruits, crops and plants. The genomes of species are ideal for comparative study because of its internal diversity.

Schmutz and his team compared the peach genome to that of other tree species, such as the poplar tree. From this comparison, different pathways of the biosynthesis of important elements in plants was discovered. One of the compounds is lignin, a sort of “glue” that holds plant cells together. They hypothesize that the lignin pathway is an important barrier that researchers must look into to produce biofuel from biomass.

Furthermore, the analysis showed that the overall genome sequence may be associated with fruit tree evolution. After analyzing the DNA sequences of many different biofuel crops, Schmutz and his team expected that cellulosic ethanol could be extracted in order to produce energy fuels.

Overall, the successful mapping of the peach genome not only allowed scientists to understand foundational, biological details of many different species of trees within the family, but also provided insight to genome evolution and the changes within the genome that characterize different species.

Eventually, the collaborators on this project hope to manipulate different gene sequences within the peach genome in order to produce the biofuels and increase biomass. New and unique methods for creating alternative fuels are on its way.

The project was funded by the U.S Department of Energy Office Science. Although researchers were mainly affiliated with the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, this has also been an international project with support from the Italian government. Institutes in Spain, Chile and France also contributed to the effort.


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