Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 33–39 | Cite as

The Effect of Ethnicity on Human Axillary Odorant Production

  • Katharine A. Prokop-Prigge
  • Kathryn Greene
  • Lauren Varallo
  • Charles J. Wysocki
  • George Preti


Previous findings from our laboratory highlighted marked ethnic differences in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cerumen among individuals of Caucasian, East Asian, and African-American descent, based, in part, on genetic differences in a gene that codes for a transport protein, which is a member of the ATP-binding cassette transporter, sub-family C, member 11 (ABCC11). In the current work, we hypothesized that axillary odorants produced by East Asians would differ markedly from those obtained from individuals of European or African descent based on the pattern of ethnic diversity that exists in ABCC11. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) we examined differences in axillary odorant VOCs among 30 individuals of African-American, Caucasian, and East Asian descent with respect to their ABCC11 genotype. While no qualitative differences in the type of axillary odorants were observed across ethnic groups, we found that characteristic axillary odorants varied quantitatively with respect to ethnic origin. We propose that ABCC11 is not solely responsible for predicting the relative amounts of volatiles found in axillary secretions and that other biochemical pathways must be involved.


Axillary odor Ethnicity/race Volatile organic compounds Genetics Analytical chemistry 



The authors thank Jason Eades for technical support. KAP acknowledges support from NIH-NIDCD Postdoctoral Training Grant 5T32DC0014 as well as Monell Institutional Funds. The genotyping was performed at the Monell Genotyping and DNA/RNA Analysis Core, which is supported, in part, by funding from the NIH-NIDCD Core Grant P30DC01173.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monell Chemical Senses CenterPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Dermatology, Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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