Fragrance oil depends on bacteria in the roots

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bacteria

A commonly used fragrance oil obtained from a tropical grass is dependent on the microbial communities present in the root of the plant, according to a recent study.

The oil of the Vetiver root is a popular ingredient in the fragrance world and new research suggests that its composition depends on the bacteria found living in the plant.

Bacteria directly affect oil’s composition

According to the scientists, this could make it possible for fragrance producers to manipulate the composition of the oil by altering the make up of the bacterial communities.

The team, led by Luigi Del Giudice at the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics at the University of Naples, Italy, investigated the role the bacteria play in the creation of the oil.

Primarily, they tested the ability of the various different bacterial strains found in the root of the plant to grow using Vetiver oil as the sole energy and carbon source and found that a number of Enterobacteriaceae ​strains were very successful.

The team then went on to investigate the way these microbes altered the oil’s structure, finding that each of the micro-organisms metabolized the raw Vetiver oil and produced compounds that were not present in the raw oil but often found in commercially available oils.

In addition, the team went on to investigate the behaviour of axenic Vetiver (Vetiver with no other organism or microbe present) finding that only a very small number of aroma producing compounds (sesquiterpenoids) were produced.

However, when the main sesquiterpenoid (beta-caryophyllene) was fed to the bacteria, other aroma producing compounds were produced.

In other words the bacterial communities living in the root directly affect composition of the oil, producing aroma compounds that would otherwise not be present.

Oil varies from place to place

This finding may go some way to explain why the properties of the Vetiver oil change significantly depending on the environment in which it was grown.

In addition, it opens the possibility of using these bacterial colonies to directly manipulate the composition of the oil.

According to the researchers this could be done in one of two ways: First, in vivo​, by manipulating the bacterial colonization of the plant root. Second, in vitro​ by using specific bacterial strains to convert the raw oil into the desired composition.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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