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posted on 20.03.2018, 04:12 by Collin M. Timm, Evan P. Lloyd, Amanda Egan, Ray Mariner, David Karig

Bacterially produced volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can modify growth patterns of eukaryotic hosts and competing/cohabiting microbes. These compounds have been implicated in skin disorders and attraction of biting pests. Current methods to detect and characterize VOCs from microbial cultures can be laborious and low-throughput, making it difficult to understand the behavior of microbial populations. In this work we present an efficient method employing gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with autosampling to characterize VOC profiles from solid-phase bacterial cultures. We compare this method to complementary plate-based assays and measure the effects of growth media and incubation temperature on the VOC profiles from a well-studied Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 system. We observe that P. aeruginosa produces longer chain VOCs, such as 2-undecanone and 2-undecanol in higher amounts at 37°C than 30°C. We demonstrate the throughput of this method by studying VOC profiles from a representative collection of skin bacterial isolates under three parallel growth conditions. We observe differential production of various aldehydes and ketones depending on bacterial strain. This generalizable method will support screening of bacterial populations in a variety of research areas.