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Keywords:

  • Aroma and flavor biotechnology;
  • Fruits;
  • Metabolic engineering;
  • Plant foods;
  • Volatile organic compounds

Abstract

Plants have the ability to produce a diversity of volatile metabolites, which attract pollinators and seed dispersers and strengthen plant defense responses. Selection by plant breeders of traits such as rapid growth and yield leads, in many cases, to the loss of flavor and aroma quality in crops. How the aroma can be improved without affecting other fruit attributes is a major unsolved issue. Significant advances in metabolic engineering directed at improving the set of volatiles that the fruits emit has been aided by the characterization of enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of flavor and aroma compounds in some fruits. However, before this technology can be successfully applied to modulate the production of volatiles in different crops, further basic research is needed on the mechanisms that lead to the production of these compounds in plants. Here we review the biosynthesis and function of volatile compounds in plants, and the attempts that have been made to manipulate fruit aroma biosynthesis by metabolic engineering. In addition, we discuss the possibilities that molecular breeding offers for aroma enhancement and the implications of the latest advances in biotechnological modification of fruit flavor and aroma.