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