1. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
  2. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
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Structural basis of malodour precursor transport in the human axilla

  1. Gurdeep S Minhas
  2. Daniel Bawdon
  3. Reyme Herman
  4. Michelle Rudden
  5. Andrew P Stone
  6. A Gordon James
  7. Gavin H Thomas  Is a corresponding author
  8. Simon Newstead  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  2. University of York, United Kingdom
  3. Unilever Discover, United Kingdom
Research Article
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Cite as: eLife 2018;7:e34995 doi: 10.7554/eLife.34995

Abstract

Mammals produce volatile odours that convey different types of societal information. In Homo sapiens, this is now recognised as body odour, a key chemical component of which is the sulphurous thioalcohol, 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3M3SH). Volatile 3M3SH is produced in the underarm as a result of specific microbial activity, which act on the odourless dipeptide-containing malodour precursor molecule, S-Cys-Gly-3M3SH, secreted in the axilla (underarm) during colonisation. The mechanism by which these bacteria recognise S-Cys-Gly-3M3SH and produce body odour is still poorly understood. Here we report the structural and biochemical basis of bacterial transport of S-Cys-Gly-3M3SH by Staphylococcus hominis, which is converted to the sulphurous thioalcohol component 3M3SH in the bacterial cytoplasm, before being released into the environment. Knowledge of the molecular basis of precursor transport, essential for body odour formation, provides a novel opportunity to design specific inhibitors of malodour production in humans.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Gurdeep S Minhas

    Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  2. Daniel Bawdon

    Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  3. Reyme Herman

    Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-6620-3981
  4. Michelle Rudden

    Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  5. Andrew P Stone

    Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-1087-9923
  6. A Gordon James

    Personal Care, Unilever Discover, Bedford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    A Gordon James, is affiliated with Unilever Discover. The author has no financial interests to declare.
  7. Gavin H Thomas

    Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    gavin.thomas@york.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  8. Simon Newstead

    Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    simon.newstead@bioch.ox.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon 0000-0001-7432-2270

Funding

Wellcome (102890/Z/13/Z)

  • Simon Newstead

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/N006615/1)

  • Gavin H Thomas

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/L013703/1)

  • Gavin H Thomas
  • Simon Newstead

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/H016201/1)

  • Daniel Bawdon
  • A Gordon James
  • Gavin H Thomas

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Olga Boudker, Reviewing Editor, Weill Cornell Medicine, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: January 11, 2018
  2. Accepted: June 23, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 3, 2018 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2018, Minhas et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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