No.12155   September 2, 2014

World's First Successful Genome Analysis of Hop,
Beer's Key Flavor Ingredient
Outlook Points to Hop Quality Assessments and Explanation of Beer Flavor's Formation

Suntory Global Innovation Center Limited (President, Member of the Board: Masato Arishiro) has succeeded in analyzing the genome of hop (Humulus lpulus) for the first time in the world in a joint effort with the Czech Republic's Hop Research Institute, the Iwate Biotechnology Research Center, the Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences and Suntory System Technology Limited.

[Research Background]

The pistillate (female flower) of hop is called a cone. It is used as a key flavor ingredient in the brewing of beer. The SIC and its partners revealed hop's genome to gain useful information for improving breeds of hop as well as to help make even tastier beer.

[Research Details]

1) As a result of analyzing the genome of the Shinshu Wase cultivar cultivated in Japan, the researchers succeeded in analyzing 2.1 billion base pairs, accounting for approximately 80% of the 2.5 billion base pairs estimated to exist in the entire hop genome.

2) Based on Shinshu Wase's genome sequence, the researchers revealed the genome sequences of a European cutivar, Saazer, and a wild hop (Karahanasou in Japanese). When the researchers compared these three hops, they found different genetic sequences in over 10 million locations and think that these differences in genome sequences affect flavor and growth properties.

3) The researchers also performed gene expression analysis of the cone in each stage of growth and were able to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which flavor compornents are synthesized during hop cone development.

[Future Outlook]

1) By continuing an analysis of the genes' functions, the researchers will be able to shed light on the key flavor-forming mechanisms of beer, predict flavor characteristics of each hop cultivar and apply the research to the development of new cultivation techniques. We hope these results will lead to the development of beer with new, never-before-tasted flavors.

2) Due to major advances in elucidating the functions of numerous genes, we expect that breeding by cross-hybridization will dramatically accelerate. Furthermore, the research will make major contributions to improving hop cultivars with added value, such as new flavors and resistance to diseases and pests.

At the Suntory Group, we have been continuing unremittingly with our efforts to scientifically understand the deliciousness of beer and, with regards to hop itself, we have been making advances in searching for and clarifying the components that influence a beer's taste. In addition, we are incorporating innovative technology, such as analysis of the genome of brewer's yeast for the first time in the world in 2002. In the future we will continue to conduct research that leads to the production of beer with even higher quality.

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