The sequential action of a dipeptidase and a beta-lyase is required for the release of the human body odorant 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol from a secreted Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate by Corynebacteria

J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 25;283(30):20645-52. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800730200. Epub 2008 May 30.


Human axillary odor is formed by the action of Corynebacteria on odorless axilla secretions. Sulfanylalkanols, 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol in particular, form one key class of the odoriferous compounds. A conjugate with the dipeptide Cys-Gly has been reported as the secreted precursor for 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol. Here, we confirm the Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate as the major precursor of this odorant, with lower levels of the Cys-(S) conjugate being present in axilla secretions. The enzymatic release of 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol from the Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate by the axilla isolate Corynebacterium Ax20 was thus investigated. Cellular extracts of Ax20 released 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol from the Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate and from the Cys-(S) conjugate, whereas the previously isolated C-S lyase of this bacterial strain was only able to cleave the Cys-(S) conjugate. o-Phenanthroline blocked the release from the Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate but did not affect cleavage of the Cys-(S) conjugate, indicating that in a first step, a metal-dependent dipeptidase hydrolyzes the Cys-Gly bond. This enzyme was purified by four chromatographic steps and gel electrophoresis, and the partial amino acid sequence was determined. The corresponding gene was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. It codes for a novel dipeptidase with a high affinity toward the Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate of 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol. Co-incubating either the synthetic Cys-Gly-(S) conjugate or fresh axilla secretions with both the C-S lyase and the novel dipeptidase did release 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol, proving that the sequential action of these two enzymes from the skin bacterium Corynebacterium Ax20 does release the odorant from the key secreted precursor.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Chromatography / methods
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer / methods
  • Corynebacterium / metabolism*
  • Dipeptidases / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lyases / chemistry*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Odorants*
  • Phenanthrolines / chemistry
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Amino Acids
  • Phenanthrolines
  • Dipeptidases
  • Lyases
  • 1,10-phenanthroline

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EU311559