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The rose is an ornamental plant emblematic of the history of humanity from both a cultural and economic point of view. Celebrated since antiquity by countless artists, appreciated for its fragrance and the beauty of its flowers, roses are today the most purchased flower in France, while the rose plant is an essential decorative plant of gardens.

An international consortium including the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), succeeded in decoding the genome of the rose plant for the first time. This work allows to retrace the respective contributions of European and Chinese roses to the genome of the modern plant, and to identify all the genes involved in the biosynthesis process of perfume and color. Published in the review Nature Genetics at the end of April, this information is essential to the creation of new varieties that optimize flower qualities in a world of constant change.

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A combined eight years of work on the most innovative strategies and tools allowed to decrypt all of the genetic information of the seven chromosome pairs of Rosa chinensis (“Old Blush”) and to record all of its 36,377 genes, constituting the reference genome for the genus Rosa. The comparison of this genome Rosa with other plants in the Rosacea family (strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, peaches, and prunes) showed the rose plants, strawberry plants and raspberry plants are all evolutionary very close relatives.

The researchers also were able to identify the main genes involved in flowering, the development of flowers, reproduction, fragrance, and the synthesis of pigments that control color. Of particular note, the scientists found that one group of genes is simultaneously strongly involved in both the production of color and fragrance.

In the long term, these findings will help to accelerate the improvement in selection and quality of the “Queen of All flowers.” They will also no doubt prove to be useful in decoding the genomes of closely related plants.