Exploration and Exploitation of the Yeast Volatilome
Birgitta E. Ebert,
Lars M. Blank.
Background: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are small molecular mass substances,
which exhibit high-vapor pressures, low boiling points, and lipophilic character. VOCs are produced
by all organisms including eukaryotic microbes like yeast, whose volatile metabolites are for centuries
exploited for examples as flavors in bread, beer, and wine. Notably, while the applications of
VOCs are many, the knowledge on their biochemical synthesis is still limited.
Objective: We review here the current information of yeast volatile metabolites and techniques to further
explore the VOC landscape made possible by improvements of the analytical possibilities, regarding
sampling frequency, identification, and quantification and the development to computationally
interpret (high-throughput) data. Especially possibilities for online and even real-time analysis
should trigger new experimental approaches that elucidate the biochemistry as well as the regulation
of VOC synthesis. Baker’s yeast is here the organism of choice as the genetic inventory can be linked
to VOC formation and with this in hand improved applications can be envisaged. The physical,
chemical or biological properties make many VOCs interesting targets for different industrial sectors
while their natural function as semiochemicals or in defense mechanisms can be exploited to engineer
synthetic microbial communities or to develop new antibiotics.
Conclusion: VOCs produced by microbes including yeast are a chemical diverse group of compounds
with highly different applications. The new analytical techniques briefly summarized here will enable
the use of VOCs in even broader applications including human health monitoring and bioprocess control.
We envisage a bright future for VOC research and for the resulting applications
Keywords: Gas chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, metabolic pathway inference, metabolism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae,
VOC, volatile organic compounds, yeast.
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