Identification of Climate and Genetic Factors That Control Fat Content and Fatty Acid Composition of Theobroma cacao L. Beans

Guiliana M. Mustiga, Joe Morrissey, Joseph Conrad Stack, Ashley DuVal, Stefan Royaert, Johannes Jansen, Carolina Bizzotto, Cristiano Villela-Dias, Linkai Mei, Edgar B. Cahoon, Ed Seguine, Jean Philippe Marelli, Juan Carlos Motamayor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The main ingredients of chocolate are usually cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar. Both the powder and the butter are extracted from the beans of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao L.). The cocoa butter represents the fat in the beans and possesses a unique fatty acid profile that results in chocolate’s characteristic texture and mouthfeel. Here, we used a linkage mapping population and phenotypic data of 3,292 samples from 420 progeny which led to the identification of 27 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for fatty acid composition and six QTLs for fat content. Progeny showed extensive variation in fat levels and composition, with the level of palmitic acid negatively correlated to the sum of stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. A major QTL explaining 24% of the relative level of palmitic acid was mapped to the distal end of chromosome 4, and those higher levels of palmitic acid were associated with the presence of a haplotype from the “TSH 1188” parent in the progeny. Within this region of chromosome 4 is the Thecc1EG017405 gene, an orthologue and isoform of the stearoyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) desaturase (SAD) gene in plants, which is involved in fatty acid biosynthesis. Besides allelic differences, we also show that climate factors can change the fatty acid composition in the beans, including a significant positive correlation between higher temperatures and the higher level of palmitic acid. Moreover, we found a significant pollen donor effect from the variety “SIAL 70” which was associated with decreased palmitic acid levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1159
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Oct 14 2019


  • QTL
  • SNP
  • cacao
  • fat content
  • fatty acid composition
  • heritability
  • linkage mapping
  • weather

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of Climate and Genetic Factors That Control Fat Content and Fatty Acid Composition of Theobroma cacao L. Beans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this