An international consortium coordinated by INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, has sequenced and decrypted the genome of several truffle species, including the white Alba truffle, the Burgundy truffle, and the desert truffle. This breakthrough allows for a better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between fungi and trees, for whom the ecological role is considerable, but above all, to understand the mechanisms involved in the formation of truffles and making their famous tastes. This study was published Nov. 12 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

In 2010, a team of microbiologists at INRA managed to decrypt the genome of the black truffle of Périgord. No less than eight years would be necessary to be able to finish the considerable work that was recently published. By sequencing the genome of other reputable truffle species, the international consortium was able to identify the indispensable genes required for forming the symbiotic relationship and the fruiting bodies of the truffles – which were remarkably well conserved in all of the sequenced truffles. The development and comparison of these genomes allow us to better understand the biology and the ecology of different types of truffles. These genomic resources have elucidated some of the darker facets of these mysterious fungi, like their method of reproduction or their way of synthesizing their cocktail of aromas, both complex and characteristic of these species.

The flavoring of truffles is composed of a complex cocktail made up of volatile organic ingredients. Freeing them fills a biological need for the truffles that is intimately related to reproduction, which assures the dissemination of different truffle species for more than 150 million years. Truffle produce their fruiting bodies under the soil’s surface, sheltered from the surrounding environment. However, their powerful flavor attracts wild boars and rodents who unearth them to spread the truffle spores. Dissecting the fabrication of these flavors thus found itself naturally at the heart of research on truffles. About 50 molecules make up the typical flavor of each of the different truffle species. The genes coding the enzymes involved in the synthesis of these odors are particularly actives in the different truffles studied, thus allowing for the production of the characteristic flavors of each of these different truffles.