The Pungent Smell Of “The King Of Fruits”, Durian, Gets Decoded


The durian fruit may look harmless, but it harnesses a potent smell.

The durian is known to many as the “king of fruits”. That title doesn’t come without some negative context, as it is likewise known for its foul odor. Today, scientists now know why that odor exists in the first place and the purpose it serves.


The fruits are considered a delicacy in Asia and many other parts of the world. The spiny-shelled morsels are cut open for their creamy, sweet interiors which are pleasant tasting due to their sugary nature. Despite their sweet taste, however, they also carry a pungent smell that repels many. In fact, this odor has caused it to be banned on subways and hotels throughout different cities.

What Scientists Discovered

Taking the curiosity of the fruit’s odor to heart are a team of five Singaporean cancer scientists. Together, these gentlemen sequenced over 46,000 genes involving the fruit, more than in the human body itself. They found that the genome originates from a common ancestor with chocolate, the cacao plant.

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In terms of smell, they discovered a set of sulfur-producing genes known as methionine gamma lyases (MGLs) that are responsible for the “rotting” smell. This came as no surprise to many,

“it fits with many people’s opinions that the smell has a ‘sulphury’ aspect,” Says Patrick Tan of Duke Medical School.

Scientists reviewing the team’s publishing theorize that the smell is an evolutionary component made to attract certain primates to spread the fruit’s seeds.

Public Response

With this information now at their disposal, some researchers plan on genetically-engineering the fruit to eliminate its odor-causing chemicals in the future. Surprisingly, many people turned out against this, as some believe the durian is authentic because of its odor. “What’s the fruit if it’s odorless and tasteless?” Said Manfred Man, a Singaporean resident.

Since researchers now know the foundation of the durian’s famously pungent scent, it will be interesting to see the next steps they take. Given some of the public outcry, a reversal of the fruit’s odor may not be their next agenda.

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Image Source: Pixabay

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