Combined sensory, volatilome and transcriptome analyses identify a limonene terpene synthase as a major contributor to the characteristic aroma of a Coffea arabica L. specialty coffee

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BMC Plant Biol. 2024 Apr 3;24(1):238. doi: 10.1186/s12870-024-04890-3.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The fruity aromatic bouquet of coffee has attracted recent interest to differentiate high value market produce as specialty coffee. Although the volatile compounds present in green and roasted coffee beans have been extensively described, no study has yet linked varietal molecular differences to the greater abundance of specific substances and support the aroma specificity of specialty coffees.

RESULTS: This study compared four Arabica genotypes including one, Geisha Especial, suggested to generate specialty coffee. Formal sensory evaluations of coffee beverages stressed the importance of coffee genotype in aroma perception and that Geisha Especial-made coffee stood out by having fine fruity, and floral, aromas and a more balanced acidity. Comparative SPME-GC-MS analyses of green and roasted bean volatile compounds indicated that those of Geisha Especial differed by having greater amounts of limonene and 3-methylbutanoic acid in agreement with the coffee cup aroma perception. A search for gene ontology differences of ripening beans transcriptomes of the four varieties revealed that they differed by metabolic processes linked to terpene biosynthesis due to the greater gene expression of prenyl-pyrophosphate biosynthetic genes and terpene synthases. Only one terpene synthase (CaTPS10-like) had an expression pattern that paralleled limonene loss during the final stage of berry ripening and limonene content in the studied four varieties beans. Its functional expression in tobacco leaves confirmed its functioning as a limonene synthase.

CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these data indicate that coffee variety genotypic specificities may influence ripe berry chemotype and final coffee aroma unicity. For the specialty coffee variety Geisha Especial, greater expression of terpene biosynthetic genes including CaTPS10-like, a limonene synthase, resulted in the greater abundance of limonene in green beans, roasted beans and a unique citrus note of the coffee drink.

PMID:38566027 | DOI:10.1186/s12870-024-04890-3