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Bacterial volatiles and their action potential


During the past few years, an increasing awareness concerning the emission of an unexpected high number of bacterial volatiles has been registered. Humans sense, intensively and continuously, microbial volatiles that are released during food transformation and fermentation, e.g., the aroma of wine and cheese. Recent investigations have clearly demonstrated that bacteria also employ their volatiles during interactions with other organisms in order to influence populations and communities. This review summarizes the presently known bioactive compounds and lists the wide panoply of effects possessed by organisms such as fungi, plants, animals, and bacteria. Because bacteria often emit highly complex volatile mixtures, the determination of biologically relevant volatiles remains in its infancy. Part of the future goal is to unravel the structure of these volatiles and their biosynthesis. Nevertheless, bacterial volatiles represent a source for new natural compounds that are interesting for man, since they can be used, for example, to improve human health or to increase the productivity of agricultural products.

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The authors thank the University of Rostock and the DFG for financial support to BP. The authors are grateful to the students Caroline Westendorf and Falco Lange for carrying out preliminary experiments. We thank Prof. Michael Bonkowski (Technical University Darmstadt, Germany) for Acanthamoeba castellanii, Prof. Andreas von Tiedemann (University Göttingen, Germany) and Prof. Ulla Bonas (University Halle, Germany) for several bacterial isolates, Prof. Till Roenneberg (University Munich, Germany) for Neurospora crassa wild-type strain.

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Correspondence to Birgit Piechulla.

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Kai, M., Haustein, M., Molina, F. et al. Bacterial volatiles and their action potential. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 81, 1001–1012 (2009).

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  • Bacterial volatiles
  • Volatile antibiotics
  • Fungistasis
  • Quorum sensing
  • Serratia odorifera
  • Stenotrophomonas