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Durian fruit

The durian fruit stinks. Literally. The fruit from Southeast Asia is said to at best smell like rotten onions. Despite its smell, people consume the fruit raw or incorporate it into recipes and enjoy its creamy consistency and sweet flavor. Now, new research has found that an amino acid plays a role in giving the durian fruit its notorious smell.

The discovery was based on a previous study by researchers at the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich that found the odorant ethanethiol and its derivatives were responsible for the fruit’s odor. The new research study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry examined the biochemical pathway in the plant to learn how it produces ethanethiol. The team of researchers—also from the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich—discovered that ethionine is the precursor to producing the strong-smelling substance.

“Our findings suggest that as the fruit ripens, a plant-specific enzyme releases the odorant from ethionine,” said lead author Nadine Fischer in a university press release. “This is consistent with our observation that during fruit ripening not only the ethionine concentration in the pulp increases, but also at the same time that of the ethanethiol. The latter explains why a ripe durian emits an extremely strong smell.”

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