Peppers Might Get Spicier Thanks to Scientists
Researchers discover gene for capsaicin
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2014 6:43 AM CDT
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Don't say science never did anything for you, spicy food lovers. Last week researchers published the full genome for the hot pepper (Capsicum annuum), a discovery that, according to LiveScience, could have a very practical application: even hotter peppers. The findings will "help breeders accelerate the research of new breeds by molecular biology techniques," one of the paper's co-authors says. Researchers analyzed 18 cultivated peppers and compared them to their wild counterparts, identifying genes associated with a host of characteristics—including spiciness.

That gene can be replicated multiple times or deleted to adjust capsaicin, which is what produces the heat. There are other (no doubt less important) implications as well; the pepper can now serve as a model for studying the evolution of unusual traits and compounds in other plants, according to early highlights published by UC Davis. Researchers also discovered that the pepper's spiciness was a relatively recent development, according to the San Jose Mercury News, and that the pepper's genome is 3.5 times larger than that of its nearest relative, the tomato. (Meanwhile, an ambitious new project is looking to sequence some 40,000 human genomes a year in order to make 100 the new 60.)