Diversity and function of terpene synthases in the production of carrot aroma and flavor compounds


Carrot (Daucus carota L.) is an important root vegetable crop with high nutritional value, characteristic flavor, and benefits to human health. D. carota tissues produce an essential oil that is rich in volatile terpenes and plays a major role in carrot aroma and flavor. Although terpene composition represents a critical quality attribute of carrots, little is known about the biosynthesis of terpenes in this crop. Here, we functionally characterized 19 terpene synthase (TPS) genes in an orange carrot (genotype DH1) and compared tissue-specific expression profiles and in vitro products of their recombinant proteins with volatile terpene profiles from DH1 and four other colored carrot genotypes. In addition to the previously reported (E)-beta -caryophyllene synthase (DcTPS01), we biochemically characterized several TPS proteins with direct correlations to major compounds of carrot flavor and aroma including germacrene D (DcTPS7/11), gamma -terpinene (DcTPS30) and alpha -terpinolene (DcTPS03). Random forest analysis of volatiles from colored carrot cultivars identified nine terpenes that were clearly distinct among the cultivars and likely contribute to differences in sensory quality. Correlation of TPS gene expression and terpene metabolite profiles supported the function of DcTPS01 and DcTPS03 in these cultivars. Our findings provide a roadmap for future breeding efforts to enhance carrot flavor and aroma.