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Truffle volatiles: from chemical ecology to aroma biosynthesis

Authors

  • Richard Splivallo,

    1. Molecular Phytopathology and Mycotoxin Research, University of Goettingen, Grisebachstrasse 6, D-37077 Goettingen, Germany
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  • Simone Ottonello,

    1. Dipartimento di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare, Università degli Studi di Parma, Viale G.P. Usberti 23/A, 43100 Parma, Italy
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  • Antonietta Mello,

    1. Istituto per la Protezione delle Piante del CNR, sez. di Torino and Dipartimento di Biologia Vegetale, Universita‘ degli Studi di Torino, Viale Mattioli 25, 10125 Torino, Italy
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  • Petr Karlovsky

    1. Molecular Phytopathology and Mycotoxin Research, University of Goettingen, Grisebachstrasse 6, D-37077 Goettingen, Germany
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Author for correspondence:
Richard Splivallo
Tel: +49 551 39 3711
Email: ricsi17@hotmail.com

Summary

Truffles (Tuber spp.) are symbiotic fungi that develop underground in association with plant roots. Food connoisseurs describe their scent as sensual, seductive and unique. These mysterious fungi, however, do not produce their aroma for the mere pleasure of humans. Truffle volatiles act as odorant cues for mammals and insects which are thus able to locate the precious fungi underground and spread their spores. They also freely diffuse in the soil and mediate interactions with microorganisms and plant roots, potentially regulating a complex molecular dialogue among soil fauna and flora. The aim of this review is to synthesize 30 yr of research on truffle volatiles, spanning fields of study from chemical ecology to aroma biosynthesis. Specific aspects of truffle volatile ecology and biology will be discussed, including which species have been studied so far and for what purpose, what ecological role has been demonstrated or speculated to exist for specific truffle volatiles, which volatiles are common or unique to certain species and what their biosynthetic route might be. Future challenges in truffle aroma research will also be addressed, focusing on how high-throughput post-genomic technologies may advance our understanding of truffle aroma biosynthesis and chemical ecology.

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