Microbiology

A Fumigating Fungal Fragrance

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Science  30 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5548, pp. 1791
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5548.1791d

Within the twigs of the cinnamon tree lurks an intriguing fungus, Muscodor albus, which produces volatile compounds that are toxic for a wide range of plant and animal pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Many fungi produce bad smells, and many of the odors are species specific. Strobel et al. now show that the natural mixture of volatiles exuded by M. albus is lethal to many organisms, including Staphylococcus aureus and Pythium ultimum, whereas closely related fungal species are relatively spared. M. albus worked very well as a fumigant in glasshouse experiments, preventing the growth of the smut fungus Ustilago hordei on barley seedlings for 15 weeks. From other rainforest plants, these authors have isolated other endophyte fungal species that produce different suites of lethal gases.—CA

Microbiology147, 2943 (2001).

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