Researchers call their discovery "a crucial breakthrough in pectin biosynthesis" that might help scientists understand and potentially manipulate pectins.
Pectin is most often used as a gelling agent used in making jams and jellies but it also has anticancer properties, and might play a role in biological functions such as plant growth and development and defense against disease.
The result of the Georgia research might be genetically altered pectins that could dramatically improve plant species' ability to fight disease and new pectins that could be specifically targeted to fight cancers in humans, the research team said.
While not the breakthrough that will allow immediate manipulation of total pectin biosynthesis, it is, one of the researchers involved said, "the first word of the Rosetta Stone that will show us the blueprint for pectin biosynthesis."
The project is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.