In addition, the team scanned the genomes of 18 cultivated peppers to compare differences between wild and cultivated varieties. The team found several genes associated with how long the seeds stay dormant, resistance to pests and longer shelf life.
The team also identified the genetic component behind spiciness. It turns out that a key gene can be duplicated a different number of times to provide more or less capsaicin. Bland varieties, by contrast, have a deletion of the heat-producing gene, the researchers found.
The findings suggest two new ways to breed even spicier peppers, either by identifying peppers with the right spice genes and cross-breeding them, or by genetically engineering the peppers to express more copies of the heat-producing genes, Qin said.
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