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Concept: Aroma compound


Indoor dust is a reservoir for commercial consumer product chemicals, including many compounds with known or suspected health effects. However, most dust exposure studies measure few chemicals in small samples. We systematically searched the U.S. indoor dust literature on phthalates, replacement flame retardants (RFRs), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), synthetic fragrances, and environmental phenols and estimated pooled geometric means (GMs) and 95% confidence intervals for 45 chemicals measured in ≥3 data sets. In order to rank and contextualize these results, we used the pooled GMs to calculate residential intake from dust ingestion, inhalation, and dermal uptake from air, and then identified hazard traits from the Safer Consumer Products Candidate Chemical List. Our results indicate that U.S. indoor dust consistently contains chemicals from multiple classes. Phthalates occurred in the highest concentrations, followed by phenols, RFRs, fragrance, and PFASs. Several phthalates and RFRs had the highest residential intakes. We also found that many chemicals in dust share hazard traits such as reproductive and endocrine toxicity. We offer recommendations to maximize comparability of studies and advance indoor exposure science. This information is critical in shaping future exposure and health studies, especially related to cumulative exposures, and in providing evidence for intervention development and public policy.

Concepts: Mathematics, Measurement, Chemistry, Fire retardant, Chemical compound, Dust, Intake, Aroma compound


Whether olfaction recognizes odorants by their shape, their molecular vibrations, or both remains an open and controversial question. A convenient way to address it is to test for odor character differences between deuterated and undeuterated odorant isotopomers, since these have identical ground-state conformations but different vibrational modes. In a previous paper (Franco et al. (2011) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:9, 3797-802) we showed that fruit flies can recognize the presence of deuterium in odorants by a vibrational mechanism. Here we address the question of whether humans too can distinguish deuterated and undeuterated odorants. A previous report (Keller and Vosshall (2004) Nat Neurosci 7:4, 337-8) indicated that naive subjects are incapable of distinguishing acetophenone and d-8 acetophenone. Here we confirm and extend those results to trained subjects and gas-chromatography [GC]-pure odorants. However, we also show that subjects easily distinguish deuterated and undeuterated musk odorants purified to GC-pure standard. These results are consistent with a vibrational component in human olfaction.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Olfaction, Perfume, Odor, Flavor, Aroma compound, Distinguish, Body odor


Each person expresses a potentially unique subset of ∼400 different olfactory receptor subtypes. Given that the receptors we express partially determine the odors we smell, it follows that each person may have a unique nose; to capture this, we devised a sensitive test of olfactory perception we termed the “olfactory fingerprint.” Olfactory fingerprints relied on matrices of perceived odorant similarity derived from descriptors applied to the odorants. We initially fingerprinted 89 individuals using 28 odors and 54 descriptors. We found that each person had a unique olfactory fingerprint (P < 10(-10)), which was odor specific but descriptor independent. We could identify individuals from this pool using randomly selected sets of 7 odors and 11 descriptors alone. Extrapolating from this data, we determined that using 34 odors and 35 descriptors we could individually identify each of the 7 billion people on earth. Olfactory perception, however, fluctuates over time, calling into question our proposed perceptual readout of presumably stable genetic makeup. To test whether fingerprints remain informative despite this temporal fluctuation, building on the linkage between olfactory receptors and HLA, we hypothesized that olfactory perception may relate to HLA. We obtained olfactory fingerprints and HLA typing for 130 individuals, and found that olfactory fingerprint matching using only four odorants was significantly related to HLA matching (P < 10(-4)), such that olfactory fingerprints can save 32% of HLA tests in a population screen (P < 10(-6)). In conclusion, a precise measure of olfactory perception reveals meaningful nonolfactory genetic information.

Concepts: Receptor, Sense, Olfaction, Olfactory receptor, Odor, Aroma compound, Fingerprint, Body odor


Unlike current chemical trace detection technology, dogs actively sniff to acquire an odor sample. Flow visualization experiments with an anatomically-similar 3D printed dog’s nose revealed the external aerodynamics during canine sniffing, where ventral-laterally expired air jets entrain odorant-laden air toward the nose, thereby extending the “aerodynamic reach” for inspiration of otherwise inaccessible odors. Chemical sampling and detection experiments quantified two modes of operation with the artificial nose-active sniffing and continuous inspiration-and demonstrated an increase in odorant detection by a factor of up to 18 for active sniffing. A 16-fold improvement in detection was demonstrated with a commercially-available explosives detector by applying this bio-inspired design principle and making the device “sniff” like a dog. These lessons learned from the dog may benefit the next-generation of vapor samplers for explosives, narcotics, pathogens, or even cancer, and could inform future bio-inspired designs for optimized sampling of odor plumes.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Aerodynamics, Olfaction, Odor, Artificial insemination, Dog, Aroma compound, Body odor


Patchouli is used as an incense material and essential oil. The characteristic odor of patchouli leaves results from the drying process used in their production; however, there have to date been no reports on the changes in the odor of patchouli leaves during the drying process. We investigated the aroma profile of dried patchouli leaves using the hexane extracts of fresh and dried patchouli leaves. We focused on the presence or absence of the constituents of the fresh and dried extracts, and the differences in the content of the common constituents. Fourteen constituents were identified as characteristic of dried patchouli extract odor by gas chromatography-olfactometry analysis. The structures of seven of the 14 constituents were determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (α-patchoulene, seychellene, humulene, α-bulnesene, isoaromadendrene epoxide, caryophyllene oxide, and patchouli alcohol). The aroma profile of the essential oil obtained from the dried patchouli leaves was clearly different from that of dried patchouli. The aroma profile of the essential oil was investigated by a similar method. We identified 12 compounds as important odor constituents. The structures of nine of the 12 constituents were determined by gas chromatographymass spectrometry (cis-thujopsene, caryophyllene, α-guaiene, α-patchoulene, seychellene, α-bulnesene, isoaromadendrene epoxide, patchouli alcohol, and corymbolone). Comparing the odors and constituents demonstrated that the aroma profile of patchouli depends on the manufacturing process.

Concepts: Olfaction, Drying, Perfume, Odor, Essential oil, Aroma compound, Aromatherapy, Patchouli


Using olfactory molecular specificity, we examined the inheritance of parental traumatic exposure, a phenomenon that has been frequently observed, but not understood. We subjected F0 mice to odor fear conditioning before conception and found that subsequently conceived F1 and F2 generations had an increased behavioral sensitivity to the F0-conditioned odor, but not to other odors. When an odor (acetophenone) that activates a known odorant receptor (Olfr151) was used to condition F0 mice, the behavioral sensitivity of the F1 and F2 generations to acetophenone was complemented by an enhanced neuroanatomical representation of the Olfr151 pathway. Bisulfite sequencing of sperm DNA from conditioned F0 males and F1 naive offspring revealed CpG hypomethylation in the Olfr151 gene. In addition, in vitro fertilization, F2 inheritance and cross-fostering revealed that these transgenerational effects are inherited via parental gametes. Our findings provide a framework for addressing how environmental information may be inherited transgenerationally at behavioral, neuroanatomical and epigenetic levels.

Concepts: DNA, Psychology, Molecular biology, In vitro fertilisation, Olfaction, Odor, Aroma compound, Body odor


We investigated the sensitivity of single olfactory receptor cells to 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), a compound known for causing cork taint in wines. Such off-flavors have been thought to originate from unpleasant odor qualities evoked by contaminants. However, we here show that TCA attenuates olfactory transduction by suppressing cyclic nucleotide-gated channels, without evoking odorant responses. Surprisingly, suppression was observed even at extremely low (i.e., attomolar) TCA concentrations. The high sensitivity to TCA was associated with temporal integration of the suppression effect. We confirmed that potent suppression by TCA and similar compounds was correlated with their lipophilicity, as quantified by the partition coefficient at octanol/water boundary (pH 7.4), suggesting that channel suppression is mediated by a partitioning of TCA into the lipid bilayer of plasma membranes. The rank order of suppression matched human recognition of off-flavors: TCA equivalent to 2,4,6-tribromoanisole, which is much greater than 2,4,6-trichlorophenol. Furthermore, TCA was detected in a wide variety of foods and beverages surveyed for odor losses. Our findings demonstrate a potential molecular mechanism for the reduction of flavor.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Olfactory receptor neuron, Olfaction, Chemical compound, Olfactory receptor, Odor, Aroma compound


The fermentation hypothesis for animal signalling posits that bacteria dwelling in an animal’s scent glands metabolize the glands' primary products into odorous compounds used by the host to communicate with conspecifics. There is, however, little evidence of the predicted covariation between an animal’s olfactory cues and its glandular bacterial communities. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, we first identified the volatile compounds present in ‘pure’ versus ‘mixed’ anal-gland secretions (‘paste’) of adult meerkats (Suricata suricatta) living in the wild. Low-molecular-weight chemicals that likely derive from bacterial metabolism were more prominent in mixed than pure secretions. Focusing thereafter on mixed secretions, we showed that chemical composition varied by sex and was more similar between members of the same group than between members of different groups. Subsequently, using next-generation sequencing, we identified the bacterial assemblages present in meerkat paste and documented relationships between these assemblages and the host’s sex, social status and group membership. Lastly, we found significant covariation between the volatile compounds and bacterial assemblages in meerkat paste, particularly in males. Together, these results are consistent with a role for bacteria in the production of sex- and group-specific scents, and with the evolution of mutualism between meerkats and their glandular microbiota.

Concepts: Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Olfaction, Odor, Olfactory fatigue, Aroma compound, MeerKAT


Olfactory receptors, which belong to the family of G-Protein coupled receptors, are found to be ectopically expressed in non-sensory tissues mediating a variety of cellular functions. In this study, we detected the olfactory receptor OR51E2 at the transcript and protein level in human epidermal melanocytes. Stimulation of primary melanocytes with the OR51E2 ligand beta-ionone significantly inhibited melanocyte proliferation. Our results further showed that beta-ionone stimulates melanogenesis and dendritogenesis. Using RNA silencing and receptor antagonists we demonstrated that OR51E2 activation elevated cytosolic [Ca2+] and [cAMP], which could mediate the observed increase in melanin synthesis. Co-immunocytochemical stainings using a specific OR51E2 antibody revealed subcellular localization of the receptor in early endosomes associated with EEA-1. Plasma membrane preparations revealed that OR51E2 protein is present at the melanocyte cell surface. Our findings thus suggest that activation of olfactory receptor signaling by external compounds can influence melanocyte homeostasis.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Melanin, Olfactory receptor, Aroma compound


People in Western cultures are poor at naming smells and flavors. However, for wine and coffee experts, describing smells and flavors is part of their daily routine. So are experts better than lay people at conveying smells and flavors in language? If smells and flavors are more easily linguistically expressed by experts, or more “codable”, then experts should be better than novices at describing smells and flavors. If experts are indeed better, we can also ask how general this advantage is: do experts show higher codability only for smells and flavors they are expert in (i.e., wine experts for wine and coffee experts for coffee) or is their linguistic dexterity more general? To address these questions, wine experts, coffee experts, and novices were asked to describe the smell and flavor of wines, coffees, everyday odors, and basic tastes. The resulting descriptions were compared on a number of measures. We found expertise endows a modest advantage in smell and flavor naming. Wine experts showed more consistency in how they described wine smells and flavors than coffee experts, and novices; but coffee experts were not more consistent for coffee descriptions. Neither expert group was any more accurate at identifying everyday smells or tastes. Interestingly, both wine and coffee experts tended to use more source-based terms (e.g., vanilla) in descriptions of their own area of expertise whereas novices tended to use more evaluative terms (e.g., nice). However, the overall linguistic strategies for both groups were en par. To conclude, experts only have a limited, domain-specific advantage when communicating about smells and flavors. The ability to communicate about smells and flavors is a matter not only of perceptual training, but specific linguistic training too.

Concepts: Linguistics, Olfaction, Taste, Odor, Expert, Aroma compound, Expert witness, Expert system