Making exotic flavors and fragrances less expensive

October 22, 2013 | James Kohl

What’s That Smell? Exotic Scents Made From Re-engineered Yeast

By ANDREW POLLACK Oct 20,2013 NY Times

Genetic engineering to produce products that now come from rare plants holds great promise, but critics warn of harm to small farmers, among others.

Excerpt: “…a powerful form of genetic engineering could revolutionize the production of some of the most sought-after flavors and fragrances. Rather than being extracted from plants, they are being made by genetically modified yeast or other micro-organisms cultured in huge industrial vats.”

My comment: Few people I know, other than the coauthors of our 1996 Hormones and Behavior review article: “From fertilization to adult sexual behavior” could have guessed that the molecular epigenetics of yeast would become a multi-million dollar industry connected to flavors and fragrances via the epigenetic effects of food odors and pheromones.

We wrote: ‘Parenthetically it is interesting to note even the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a gene-based equivalent of sexual orientation (i.e., a-factor and alpha-factor physiologies). These differences arise from different epigenetic modifications of an otherwise identical MAT locus (Runge and Zakian, 1996; Wu and Haber, 1995).”

We also wrote: Small intranuclear proteins also participate in generating alternative splicing techniques of pre-mRNA and, by this mechanism, contribute to sexual differentiation in at least two species, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans (Adler and Hajduk, 1994; de Bono, Zarkower, and Hodgkin, 1995; Ge, Zuo, and Manley, 1991; Green, 1991; Parkhurst and Meneely, 1994; Wilkins, 1995; Wolfner, 1988). That similar proteins perform functions in humans suggests the possibility that some human sex differences may arise from alternative splicings of otherwise identical genes.

Even now,  nearly 17 years later, few people will recognize that the alternative splicings of otherwise identical genes in yeasts enable the genetic engineering that crosses from animals back to plants via conserved molecular mechanisms in plants that enabled the proliferation of animal species directly linked to humans from nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled sexual reproduction in yeasts. See, for example: Signaling Crosstalk: Integrating Nutrient Availability and Sex. “The mechanism by which one signaling pathway regulates a second provides insight into how cells integrate multiple stimuli to produce a coordinated response.” In this case, the coordinated response provides insight into the synthetic biology of exotic scents.

My coauthors and I expected details of molecular epigenetics to lead to increased knowledge and treatment of developmental disorders based on what has been learned about how olfactory/pheromonal input is involved at every level of biologically based development that is still largely ignored by psychologists and medical practitioners today. But at least we will have less expensive fragrance products, perhaps.

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James Vaughn Kohl

James Vaughn Kohl

James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones.