Moulds and bacteria communicate via fragrances-terpenes

This article by Elsabe Brits (22 April 2017) is in English available (see below here)

Swamme en Bakteriee kan praat deur Elsabe Brits

Terpenes are the world’s most widespread communication medium – and Terpenes are the building blocks of essential oils

This article of April 14, 2017 show that Moulds and Bacteria can Communicate.

I believe this is the way for communication between essential oil molecules and humans as well …  read more …

Research has now for the first time proven than moulds and bacteria can ‘talk’ to each other and that the language they use is probably the one that is used the most on planet earth.

A team at the Netherland Institute for Ecology has proven that two kinds of micro-organisms, soil bacteria and a plant-mould, can ‘talk.’ They  use fragrances, known as terpenes, to talk.

If you’re small, smells are a good way to stand out. A team of researchers led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has demonstrated for the first time that two different types of micro-organisms—bacteria and fungi—use fragrances, known as terpenes, to hold conversations. And that’s not all: “We actually believe that terpenes are the most popular chemical medium on our planet to communicate through,” they report.

Research by microbial ecologists from NIOO and their colleagues has demonstrated that two very different groups of micro-organisms use fragrances to communicate with each other, the most common type being terpenes. In only one gram of soil, billions of micro-organisms thrive, all communicating chemically. This chemical communication is likely prevalent in other life forms, as well, as the research team reports in Scientific Reports.

A firm conversation

The researchers have demonstrated that bacteria and fungi do, in fact, respond to each other—in other words, they can hold conversations. Group leader Paolina Garbeva explains: “Serratia, a soil bacterium, can smell the fragrant terpenes produced by Fusarium, a plant pathogenic fungus. It responds by becoming motile and producing a terpene of its own.”

The researchers established this by studying which genes were activated by the bacterium, which proteins it began to produce, and which fragrance by using transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic techniques. “Such fragrances—or volatile organic compounds—are not just some waste product, they are instruments targeted specifically at long-distance communication between these minute fungi and bacteria.”

But how widespread is this language of smells? Pathogenic soil fungi such as Fusarium also have an effect aboveground, where they make plants sick. Can they communicate with those plants? Garbeva says, “We have known for some time that plants and insects use terpenes to communicate with each other. But we’ve only just begun to realise that it’s actually much wider.

There is a much larger group of ‘terpene-speakers’: micro-organisms.”

For fungi, protists, bacteria, and even higher animals, terpenes act as pheromones—chemical signals used by animals—which makes them a regular ingredient of perfumes. So it’s likely that the language of terpenes forms a vast chemical communications network, indeed.


Terpenes are by no means the only volatile organic compounds that are in for a good chat. The researchers found others, as well. Garbeva’s Ph.D. student, Ruth Schmidt, the first author of the article, adds: “Organisms are multilingual, but ‘terpene’ is the language that’s used most often.”

Who knows? Maybe without realising it, humans are native speakers too.

What we do know, is that Essential oils are made of the building blocks of Terpenes.


Terpenes are volatile fragrance molecules. We know now that Essential oils are molecules for healing. Now we realise that they can also communicate via fragrant terpene molecules.

Terpenes are the smallest building blocks of essential oils; more complex are mono terpenes and sesquiterpenes contain the longest chains of terpenes….read more in this book.

Read more on the science of essential oils and fragrance in healing-

by Suret Morkel -When Science and the Bible met

  (soil bacteria are the stave-long organisms on top of the orange/yellow mould)

Contact us for Pure Essential oils, Prophetic oils, Organic pure perfumes made from essential oils and our skin care range (Spoil the Bride) without preservatives/paraben and unnatural fragrances.


Suret Morkel  (


Explore further: Sniffing out your dinner in the dark: How miniature predators get their favourite soil bacteria

More information: Ruth Schmidt et al, Fungal volatile compounds induce production of the secondary metabolite Sodorifen in Serratia plymuthica PRI-2C, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-00893-3 

Journal reference: Scientific Reports 

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