Agroecology 4 min

The rose genome deciphered: from the origin of modern roses to the characteristics of their blooms

PRESS RELEASE - The rose: an ornamental plant emblematic of the cultural and economic history of mankind. An international consortium involving INRA, ENS de Lyon, CEA, CNRS and Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University, has deciphered the genome of the rose. This work has made it possible to trace the respective contributions of European and Chinese roses to the genome of modern roses, and to identify genes involved in the perfume and colour biosynthesis pathways. Published in Nature Genetics on April 30th 2018, these findings are essential to help breed new varieties that will notably optimise flower qualities in a context of global change.

Published on 30 April 2018

illustration The rose genome deciphered: from the origin of modern roses to the characteristics of their blooms
© Mohammed Bendahmane

Celebrated since Antiquity by numerous artists, appreciated for its perfume and the beauty of its blooms, the rose is today the most widely purchased cut flower worldwide, and an essential ornamental plant of our gardens and balconies.

Thanks to an international consortium1 involving INRA, ENS de Lyon, CEA, CNRS and Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University, the genome of the rose has now been deciphered; an essential step towards understanding its biology and the origin of its diversity.

A high-quality reference genome that sheds light on the evolution of the Rosaceae family

Many years of effort, combined with the most innovative strategies and tools, enabled the authors to sequence and decipher the genetic information carried by the seven chromosome pairs of Rosa chinensis ‘Old Blush’ and to annotate all its 36,377 genes.
Comparison of this reference genome of the Rosa genus with those of other plants in the Rosaceae family (strawberry, raspberry, apple, pear, peach, plum, etc.) showed that rose, strawberry and raspberry are evolutionarily very close, and enabled a reconstitution of the history of the rose within the Rosaceae family.

The origins of modern roses explained

The scientists studied the origin of the chromosomes in the hybrid rose ‘La France’ obtained in Lyon in 1867. This hybrid combines the vigorous growth of European species with the recurrent blooming of those from China. To achieve this, the authors projected onto the reference genome, the genomic data of rose varieties originating from Europe, the Middle East and China, which contributed to rose domestication. They identified the origin of the genes implicated in defining the most appreciated traits of modern roses, such as recurrent blooming, which is mainly of Chinese origin.

Blooming, perfume and colour: genes identified and biosynthetic pathways reconstructed

The work also identified the genes involved in blooming, flower development, reproduction, as well as in fragrance and pigment (anthocyanin family) biosynthesis. In particular, they highlighted a group of genes involved simultaneously in the regulation of the colour and fragrance of flowers.  

This work provides solid foundations to untangle the molecular and genetic mechanisms which govern the roses' traits and their diversity and ultimately will contribute to accelerate the breeding and improve the quality of this queen of flowers. This knowledge will also be of considerable value when studying other species in the Rosaceae family and other ornamental plants.

 1 UMR Reproduction et développement des plantes (INRA, CNRS, ENS de Lyon, Univ. Claude Bernard Lyon 1); Laboratoire des Interactions plantes-microorganismes (INRA, CNRS); UMR Biométrie et biologie évolutive (Univ. Claude Bernard Lyon 1, CNRS); UMR Ecologie des hydrosystèmes naturels et anthropisés (Univ. Claude Bernard Lyon 1, ENTPE, CNRS, INRA); Institut des Sciences des plantes de Paris-Saclay (CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud, INRA, Univ. Evry, Univ. Paris-Diderot); le Genoscope, CEA; le Laboratoire de Biotechnologies végétales appliquées aux plantes aromatiques et médicinales (Univ. Jean Monnet, CNRS); l’UR Genomique-Info, INRA; UMR Génétique, diversité et écophysiologie des céréales (INRA, Univ. Clermont-Auvergne); Institut méditerranéen de la biodiversité et d'écologie marine et continentale (Univ. Aix Marseille, CNRS, IRD, Univ. Avignon et Pays du Vaucluse); Institut de Biologie moléculaire des plantes, CNRS; Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Biology (Huazhong Agricultural University, China); Institute of Vegetables and Flowers (CAAS, China); The Center for Plant Molecular Biology (Univ. Tübingen, Germany).


The Rosa genome provides new insights into the domestication of modern roses.
Raymond O, Gouzy J, Just, Badouin H, Verdenaud M, Lemainque A, Vergne P, Moja S, Choisne N, Pont CCarrère S, Caissard JC, Couloux A, Cottret L, Aury JM, Szecsi J, Latrasse D, Madoui MA, François L, Fu XP, Yang SH, Dubois A, Piola A, Larrieu A, Perez M, Labadie K, Perrier L, Govetto B, Labrousse Y, Villand P, Bardoux C, Boltz V, Lopez-Roques C, Heitzler P, Vernoux T, Vandenbussche M, Quesneville H, Boualem A, Bendahmane A, Liu C, Le Bris M, Salse J, Baudino S, Benhamed M, Wincker P, Bendahmane M.

Nature Genetics 2018,


Mohammed Bendahmane Joint Research Unit for Plant Reproduction and Development (INRAE, CNRS, ENS de Lyon, Univ. Claude Bernard Lyon1)

Jérôme Gouzy Joint Research Unit for Plant-Microorganism Interactions (INRA, CNRS)


Learn more

Mohammed Bendahmane, the scientist and the rose

Mohammed Bendahmane, Research Director at INRA, has been working on the rose for 20 years. In 2018, he and his team deciphered the rose genome with considerable accuracy; indeed, this is one of the best three plant genome assemblies. On 26 November 2019 he will be receiving a Grand Prix from the French Academy of Sciences to reward the quality of his achievements throughout his career. He tells us about his research which has thrown new light on both the rose and on human genetics.

18 December 2019


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Truffle genomes unlock secret of how its aromas are made

PRESS RELEASE - An international consortium coordinated by INRA and including the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the CEA-Genoscope, the University of Turin, Université de Lorraine and the CNRS has sequenced the genomes of several prized species of truffle, including the Alba white truffle, the summer or Burgundy truffle and the desert truffle. This breakthrough provides new insight: not only into the ecologically important role of tree/fungi symbiosis, but most importantly into the mechanisms involved in truffle growth and the creation of their famous odours. The consortium’s findings appear in the 12 November 2018 edition of Nature Ecology and Evolution.

09 February 2020