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Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 26;6:22152. doi: 10.1038/srep22152.

Sesquiterpene emissions from Alternaria alternata and Fusarium oxysporum: Effects of age, nutrient availability, and co-cultivation.

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Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology (BIOP), Neuherberg, Germany.
Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, Research Unit Environmental Simulation (EUS), Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology, Neuherberg, Germany.


Alternaria alternata is one of the most studied fungi to date because of its impact on human life - from plant pathogenicity to allergenicity. However, its sesquiterpene emissions have not been systematically explored. Alternaria regularly co-occurs with Fusarium fungi, which are common plant pathogens, on withering plants. We analyzed the diversity and determined the absolute quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the headspace above mycelial cultures of A. alternata and Fusarium oxysporum under different conditions (nutrient rich and poor, single cultures and co-cultivation) and at different mycelial ages. Using stir bar sorptive extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, we observed A. alternata to strongly emit sesquiterpenes, particularly during the early growth stages, while emissions from F. oxysporum consistently remained comparatively low. The emission profile characterizing A. alternata comprised over 20 sesquiterpenes with few effects from nutrient quality and age on the overall emission profile. Co-cultivation with F. oxysporum resulted in reduced amounts of VOCs emitted from A. alternata although its profile remained similar. Both fungi showed distinct emission profiles, rendering them suitable biomarkers for growth-detection of their phylotype in ambient air. The study highlights the importance of thorough and quantitative evaluations of fungal emissions of volatile infochemicals such as sesquiterpenes.

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