Capturing the microbial volatilome: an oft overlooked 'ome'

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Among the diverse metabolites produced by microbial communities, some are volatile. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are vigorously cycled by microbes as metabolic substrates and products and as signaling molecules. Yet, current microbial metabolomic studies predominantly focus on nonvolatile metabolites and overlook VOCs, which therefore represent a missing component of the metabolome. Advances in VOC detection now allow simultaneous observation of the numerous VOCs constituting the ‘volatilome’ of microbial systems. We present a roadmap for integrating and advancing VOC and other ‘omics approaches and highlight the potential for realtime VOC measurements to help overcome limitations in discrete ‘omics sampling. Including volatile metabolites in metabolomics, both conceptually and in practice, will build a more comprehensive understanding of microbial processes across ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTrends in Microbiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • metabolome
  • microbe
  • realtime measurements
  • volatile organic compound
  • volatilome
  • ‘omics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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