Bacteria manage perfume oil production from grass

Oct 31, 2008

Scientists in Italy have found bacteria in the root of a tropical grass whose oils have been used in the cosmetic and perfumery industries. These bacteria seem to promote the production of essential oils, but also they change the molecular structure of the oil, giving it different flavours and properties: termicidal, insecticidal, antimicrobial and antioxidant.

Studying the root of the tropical Vetiver grass through interdisciplinary research, the microbiologists Pietro Alifano and Luigi Del Giudice, the plant biologist Massimo Maffei and their colleagues found that Vetiver root cells produce a few oil precursors, which are then metabolised by the root bacteria to build up the complexity of the Vetiver oil. The bacteria were found in the oil-producing cells as well as in root locations that are closely associated with the essential oil.

The Vetiver grass is the only grass cultivated specifically for its root essential oil, which is made up of chemicals called sesquiterpenes. These are used in plants as pheromones and juvenile hormones. The essential oils also contain alcohols and hydrocarbons, which, together with the sesquiterpenes are primarily used in perfumery and cosmetics. The perfumery and flavouring industry could benefit from the increased variety that these bacteria provide to the smells and tastes of these oils.

The bacteria responsible for this transformation include alpha-, beta- and gamma-proteobacteria, high-G+C Gram-positive bacteria as well as microbes which belong to the Fibrobacteres / Acidobacteria group.

"This research opens new frontiers in the biotech arena of natural bioactive compounds" said Professor Alifano "Pharmaceutical, perfumery and flavouring industries may now exploit the selected microbial strains and widen their metabolic libraries".

"The ecological role of plant-microbial associations shows another fascinating aspect" said Professor Maffei "The metabolic interplay between a plant, which offers a few simple molecules, with root bacteria, that biotransform them into an array of bioactive compounds, increases fitness and reveals new cost-efficient survival strategies"

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Dogs can be pessimists too

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

For gamers, waiting can be the hardest part

37 minutes ago

When it comes to video games, are they better late than never? At this week's GameStop Expo, the video game retailer's annual consumer-centric event, more than 3,000 attendees had the chance to test drive ...

The ozone hole has stabilized—some questions remain

41 minutes ago

The production and consumption of chemical substances threatening the ozone layer has been regulated since 1987 in the Montreal Protocol. Eight international expert reports have since been published, which ...

Childhood mentors have positive impact on career success

52 minutes ago

New research from North Carolina State University finds that young people who have had mentors are more likely to find work early in their careers that gives them more responsibility and autonomy – ultimately ...

Recommended for you

Dogs can be pessimists too

4 minutes ago

Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life.

Seeding plant diversity for future generations

44 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —The Millennium Seed Bank dries, freezes, stores and maintains seeds for future generations to enjoy and use. It aims to save seeds from all the wild plant species of the world and so far, since ...

User comments : 0