The Molecular Scent Lab – AG Splivallo

The volatile language of fungi

Some fungi are highly appreciated food products (i.e. morels, truffles) while others are pathogenic to plants (i.e. Fusarium). In our group we study both symbiotic and pathogenic fungi to understand how they interact with other organisms through their emitted volatile compounds.

As a model of symbiotic fungus, we use truffles (i.e. black Burgundy truffle, see photo), which develops on the roots of plants such as hazel and oak. Truffle fruiting bodies are colonized by a diverse community of bacteria, yeasts and guest filamentous fungi. We are currently investigating how this microbial community influences the aroma of truffles.

As a model of plant pathogen, we investigate fungi belonging to the genus Fusarium, a major pathogen of numerous cereals. Many representatives of Fusarium also colonize plant roots where they might act as pathogens or symptomless endophytes. We currently investigate how Fusarium species interact with plant roots through volatile signals and how this signalling affects overall plant fitness.

Our interdisciplinary group incorporates methodologies ranging from the fields of basic microbiology and genetics to specialised food chemistry. We primarily focus on untargeted metabolomics volatile analysis using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry and the sensory importance of the volatile compounds using sensory methodologies as well as gas chromatography - olfactometry (see photo GC-O). We extract additional information from our data using state of the art chemometric data analysis techniques.

GC-O analysis


Black Burgundy truffles


Selected Publications

Sherif M, Becker EMB, Herrfurth C, Feussner I, Karlovsky P, Splivallo R (2016) Volatiles emitted from maize ears simultaneously infected with two Fusarium species mirror the most competitive fungal pathogen. Frontiers in Plant Science

Schenkel D, Lemfack MC, Piechulla B, Splivallo R (2015) A meta-analysis approach for assessing the diversity and specificity of belowground root and microbial volatiles. Frontiers in Plant Science 6(707)

Vahdatzadeh M, Deveau A, Splivallo R (2015) The role of the microbiome of truffles in aroma formation: a meta-analysis approach (invited review). Appl. Environ. Microbiol.

Splivallo R, Ebeler SE (2015) Sulfur volatiles of microbial origin are key contributors to human-sensed truffle aroma. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol.

Molinier V, Murat C, Frochot H, Wipf D, Splivallo R (2015) Fine-scale spatial genetic structure analysis of the black truffle Tuber aestivum and its link to aroma variability. Environ Microbiol.

Becker E, Herrfurth C, Irmisch S, Köllner T, Feussner I, Karlovsky P, Splivallo R (2014) Infection of maize ears by Fusarium spp. induces the emission of volatile sesquiterpenes. J Agric Food Chem


Becker E, Splivallo R, and Karlovsky P (2013) Volatile biomarkers for the detection of mycotoxin-producing fungal pathogens in maize plants (Patent WO 2013135889 A1).

Splivallo R, and Maier C (2011) Production of natural truffle flavours from truffle mycelium (Pat. PCTIB2010052913).


Jun.Prof. Dr. Richard Splivallo
Biocentre, Campus Riedberg
Building N100, Room 2.08
Max-von-Laue-Str. 9
60438 Frankfurt am Main

T +49 69 798-42228/-42193
F +49 69 798-29527

Consultation hour
by arrangement