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I am working with Pseudomonas fragi and I could not help but notice that it smells sweet, which probably explains its species name 'fragi' from 'fragum', strawberry in Latin.

Does anybody know what causes this bacterium to smell sweet? It must be some volatile compound that they release in the air? Why would they do that? Do other bacteria release odorant molecules? If so, why?

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The strawberry-like odour that you perceived is mainly attributed to three ethyl esters, namely the ethyl esters of butyric, hexanoic and 3-methylbutanoic acid.

There are other odour-active volatiles produced by Pseudomonas fragi, about 26, which are said to add to the richness and complexity of the odour of the three aforementioned main compounds.

Source:

Analysis of odor-active volatiles from Pseudomonas fragi grown in milk - Cormier et al. 1991

The study by Cormier et al. should be a good starting point for further reading as it references a variety of scientists who have worked on this.

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