Opinion: Capsaicinoids: Pungency beyond Capsicum (Trends Plant Sci)

You probably saw this article being discussed in your favorite news channel (in the UK, coverage spanned from the Daily Mail to the Guardian). In an Opinion article, Naves et al. discuss the genetics, biochemistry, ecology and health-benefits of capsaicinoids (the “heat” in chili pepper), and consider the feasibility of increasing their production through engineering the biosynthetic pathway in tomato. Tomatoes and peppers are both in the Solanaceae family, and all of the genes involved in capsaicinoid production are present in the tomato genome, although with limited expression levels. Tomatoes though product much higher fruit yields, making them an attractive “biofactory” fruit for capsaicinoid production. This is a great paper to read with undergraduate students, as it is intriguing and accessible, and is likely to generate some heated discussions. (Summary by Mary Williams) Trends Plant Sci. 10.1016/j.tplants.2018.11.001