A broad diversity of volatile carboxylic acids, released by a bacterial aminoacylase from axilla secretions, as candidate molecules for the determination of human-body odor type

Chem Biodivers. 2006 Jan;3(1):1-20. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.200690015.


Human body odor is to a large part determined by secretions of glands in the axillary regions. Two key odoriferous principles, 3-methylhex-2-enoic acid (3MH2; 4/5) and 3-hydroxy-3-methylhexanoic acid (HMHA; 6) have been shown to be released from glutamine conjugates secreted in the axilla by a specific N(alpha)-acyl-glutamine aminoacylase (N-AGA) obtained from axilla isolates of Corynebacteria sp. However, the low number of different odorants reported in humans stands in contrast to the observed high inter-individual variability in body odors. Axilla secretions of individual donors were, therefore, analyzed in detail. The secretions were treated with N-AGA, analyzed by GC/MS, and compared to undigested controls. Over 28 different carboxylic acids were released by this enzyme from odorless axilla secretions (Table 1). Many of these body odorants have not been reported before from a natural source, and they include several aliphatic 3-hydroxy acids with 4-Me branches, 3,4-unsaturated, 4-Et-branched aliphatic acids, and a variety of degradation products of amino acids. The odor threshold of some of the acids was found to be in the range of 1 ng. Most of these compounds were present in all donors tested, but in highly variable relative amounts, and they are, thus, candidate molecules as key components of a 'compound odor' determining the individual types of human body odor.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / isolation & purification
  • Actinomycetales / metabolism
  • Amidohydrolases / analysis*
  • Amidohydrolases / chemistry
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Axilla / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / analysis*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Carboxylic Acids / analysis*
  • Carboxylic Acids / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Sweat / chemistry
  • Volatilization


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Amidohydrolases
  • aminoacylase I