The ability of bacteria and fungi to communicate with each other is a remarkable aspect of the microbial world. It is recognized that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) act as communication signals, however the molecular responses by bacteria to fungal VOCs remain unknown. Here we perform transcriptomics and proteomics analyses of Serratia plymuthica PRI-2C exposed to VOCs emitted by the fungal pathogen Fusarium culmorum. We find that the bacterium responds to fungal VOCs with changes in gene and protein expression related to motility, signal transduction, energy metabolism, cell envelope biogenesis, and secondary metabolite production. Metabolomic analysis of the bacterium exposed to the fungal VOCs, gene cluster comparison, and heterologous co-expression of a terpene synthase and a methyltransferase revealed the production of the unusual terpene sodorifen in response to fungal VOCs. These results strongly suggest that VOCs are not only a metabolic waste but important compounds in the long-distance communication between fungi and bacteria.

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Journal Scientific Reports
Schmidt, R. (Ruth), de Jager, V, Zühlke, D. (Daniela), Wolff, C. (Christian), Bernhardt, J, Cankar, K. (Katarina), … Garbeva, P. (Paolina). (2017). Fungal volatile compounds induce production of the secondary metabolite Sodorifen in Serratia plymuthica PRI-2C. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-00893-3