Coffee Genome Generates Buzz: How Did Caffeine Evolve?

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Scientists woke up and smelled the coffee — and now they've analyzed its DNA. They found out that what we love about coffee — the caffeine — is a genetic quirk, not related to the caffeine in chocolate or tea. "It's an accident that has been frozen in place very likely by the influence of natural selection," says University of Buffalo evolutionary biologist Victor Albert.

Albert and more than 60 other researchers mapped out the genetic instruction book for robusta coffee (Caffea canephora). Their results were published Thursday in the journal Science. The researchers found that caffeine developed separately in the plants used for coffee, tea and chocolate because it is in different genes in different areas of plants' genomes. But once coffee mutated to have caffeine, it turned out to be a good thing for the plant. Most bugs don't chew on the coffee plant's leaves because they don't like the caffeine, but pollinators such as bees love it. "Pollinators come back for more — just like we do for our cups of coffee," Albert says.



— The Associated Press