• AdelineBoettcher

What's that about pumpkins? Ten fields of Cucurbita pepo research!

Here are 10 fields of pumpkin research that you might not know about!

**Cucurbita pepo is also the scientific name for zucchini and squash! I focus on papers about just pumpkins for this blog!

1. Pumpkin waste being utilized as a feed source for livestock[1]:

Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo, C. moshata, and C. maxima) contain high amounts of carbs, fat, fiber, as well as iron, zinc, and other minerals. They are also a source of vitamins A, E, C, and B-complex. Because of their rich source of nutrients, they could be utilized in livestock feed to improve the quality of meat, milk, and eggs.

2. Whole genome resequencing to learn about beneficial horticultural traits[2]:

In order to understand any species at a deeper level, sequencing needs to be performed. In this study eight different C. pepo morphotypes- Pumpkin, Vegetable Marrow, Cocozelle, Zucchini, Acorn, Crookneck, Scallop, and Straightneck underwent whole genome sequencing. Further studies involve investigating SNPs from the species to identify candidate genes that are important for different agricultural traits.

3. Sex determination in Cucurbito pepo species[3]:

Back in my botany class, I remember that ethylene played a big role in fruit ripening. But what about ethylene’s role in plant sex determination? Garcia et al identify that ethylene receptors CpETR1a and CpETR2B can control sex determination. Plants with mutations in these genes had altered growth and abnormal sex structure development.

4. Bacillis subtilis peptide secretion can increase shelf life of pumpkins by inhibiting fungi growth[4]:

In this study, 95 peptides with 2-5 amino acid residues were screened from low molecular weight filtrate from Bacillis subtillis for their ability to inhibit the activity of Beta-1,3 glucan synthase (GS), which can be secreted by different molds. They found that 57 of the peptides were able to inhibit GS. The most potent peptides were AWYW [Ala-Trp-Tyr-Trp] and HWWY [His-Trp-Trp-Tyr], and these two peptides were able to inhibit the growth of Phytophthora capsica and Penicillium chrysogenum fungi that could potentially grow on pumpkin plants.

5. Pumpkin oil increased wound healing time in rats[5]:

This aim of this study was to find natural alternatives for wound healing drugs. Pressed oil from pumpkin seeds contain fatty acids, tocopherols, and phytosterols. Wounds were induced in a set of rats that were then treated with either saline, a reference healing drug, and pumpkin oil every two days. The researchers found that pumpkin oil promoted wound healing. The pumpkin oil treated group had re-epithelialization with new collagen fiber development that was devoid of immune infiltrate.

6. Identification of bioactive molecules in pumpkin flesh[6]:

In another paper looking for bioactive molecules in pumpkins, flesh from 15 different pumpkin varieties was analyzed for different bioactive compounds including carotenoids, phenolics acids, flavonols, minerals, and vitamins. Pumpkin flesh contains high levels of carotenoids; specifically with high levels of lutein. Pumpkin flesh also contained other molecules including gallic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, and rutin. If certain biomolecules in pumpkins were found useful for treating certain ailments, they could be used as a drug source.

7. The impact of beehive supplementation on pumpkin flower pollination[7]:

We have all heard that there have been declines in bee populations in recent years. In this study, the researchers added beehives either containing supplemented Apis mellifera (honey bees) or Bombus impatiens (bumble bee) hives to fields of pumpkins to determine how these bees impacted the pollination of pumpkin flowers. A field with no supplemented beehives was used as a control. They found that both bee species were important for pollinating pumpkins, but supplementation of additional beehives may not increase overall pumpkin production.

8. Comparing different methods of extracting albumin from defatted pumpkin seed powder[8]:

Protein extraction from pumpkins could be a source of protein for human consumption. In this study, researchers compared ultrasound and enzymatic extraction of albumin from pumpkin seed powder. Ultrasound extraction was two times faster, however enzymatic extraction led to higher yields. Ultrasound extraction also increased water holding and emulsifying properties of the albumin isolate.

9. [Chemistry bonus!] Utilizing Cucurbita pepo leaf extracts to induce the synthesis of zinc oxide nanoparticles for the treatment of femoral fractures[9]:

Zinc oxide nanoparticles were synthesized using leaf extracts of Cucurbita pepo leaves. Zinc acetate dehydrate solution was mixed with the extracts to produce the nanoparticles. In vitro studies showed that the zinc oxide nanoparticles reduced cell viability of MG63 cells (osteosarcoma cell line). Together, it was concluded that the nanoparticles could be a substitute for bone tissue formation. More research will be needed in this area.

10. Characterization of a potential new polerovirus infecting pumpkins in Kenya[10]:

RNA was extracted from a pumpkin plant with viral symptoms in Kenya. Sequencing revealed the presence of polerovirus. The sequence consisted of 5,810 nucleotides and had seven open reading frames. They’ve named this virus “pumpkin polerovirus” or PuPV for short. Further characterization will be needed to determine how to combat the virus.

And of course, check out these references:

1. Nicholson, T. M. et al. Renal capsule xenografting and subcutaneous pellet implantation for the evaluation of prostate carcinogenesis and benign prostatic hyperplasia. J. Vis. Exp. (2013). doi:10.3791/50574

2. Xanthopoulou, A. et al. Whole-genome resequencing of Cucurbita pepo morphotypes to discover genomic variants associated with morphology and horticulturally valuable traits. Hortic. Res. 6, 94 (2019).

3. Garcia, A. et al. The ethylene receptors CpETR1A and CpETR2B cooperate in the control of sex determination in Cucurbita pepo. J. Exp. Bot. (2019). doi:10.1093/jxb/erz417

4. Qiao, H. et al. Short peptides secreted by Bacillus subtilis inhibit the growth of mould on fresh-cut pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo). J. Sci. Food Agric. (2019). doi:10.1002/jsfa.10021

5. Bardaa, S. et al. Oil from pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) seeds: evaluation of its functional properties on wound healing in rats. Lipids Health Dis. 15, 73 (2016).

6. Kulczyński, B. & Gramza-Michałowska, A. The Profile of Secondary Metabolites and Other Bioactive Compounds in Cucurbita pepo L. and Cucurbita moschata Pumpkin Cultivars. Molecules 24, 2945 (2019).

7. Petersen, J. D., Reiners, S. & Nault, B. A. Pollination services provided by bees in pumpkin fields supplemented with either Apis mellifera or Bombus impatiens or not supplemented. PLoS One 8, e69819–e69819 (2013).

8. Tu, G. L, et al. Comparison of enzymatic and ultrasonic extraction of albumin from defatted pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) seed powder. Food Technol Biotechnol. 53 (4): 479-487

9. Hu, D. et al. Cucurbita pepo leaf extract induced synthesis of zinc oxide nanoparticles, characterization for the treatment of femoral fracture. J. Photochem. Photobiol. B. 195, 12–16 (2019).

10. Kidanemariam, D. B. et al. Molecular characterisation of a putative new polerovirus infecting pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) in Kenya. Arch. Virol. 164, 1717–1721 (2019).

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