Volatile organic compounds-mediated plant-microbe communication

Unlike animals, plants do not possess olfactory receptors neither associated neural networks. However, plant cells do communicate via volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzenoids, terpenoids and C6-aldehydes. The key defense-related phytohormones ethylene, methyl jasmonate and methyl salicylate are bona fide volatiles that trigger profound reprogramming of the plant transcriptome into an optimized growth/immune response trade-off.

Our research questions the role of bacteria-derived VOCs as signaling cues between microbes and plants. Bacterial VOCs bouquets comprise plant-like and microbe-specific molecules that elicit plant growth and systemic resistance. Yet, it remains unclear how plants perceive such molecules and distinguish bacterial cues from plant signals. The overlap between plant and microbial volatilomes suggests that VOCs constitute an ancient cross-kingdom language that allows the early recognition of compatible or incompatible partnerships.

Using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and pathogenic or beneficial rhizobacterial species, we intend to unravel the molecular pathways translating VOCs recognition into directed plant responses at the root interface.


Recent Publications

  • Title: Mining the Volatilomes of Plant-Associated Microbiota for New Biocontrol Solutions 
    Author(s): Bailly, Aurelien; Weisskopf, Laure 
    Source: FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 8: AUG 25 2017 
    Document Type: Review (Details)
  • Title: TWISTED DWARF1 Mediates the Action of Auxin Transport Inhibitors on Actin Cytoskeleton Dynamics 
    Author(s): Zhu, Jinsheng; Bailly, Aurelien; Zwiewka, Marta; et al. 
    Source: PLANT CELL, 28(4): 930-948 APR 2016 
    Document Type: Review (Details)
  • Title: The Anti-Phytophthora Effect of Selected Potato-Associated Pseudomonas Strains: From the Laboratory to the Field
    Author(s): Guyer, Anouk; De Vrieze, Mout; Boenisch, Denise; et al. 
    Source: FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 6 (1309): NOV 2015 
    Document Type: Article (Details)
  • Title: Volatile Organic Compounds from Native Potato-associated Pseudomonas as Potential Anti-oomycete Agents 
    Author(s): De Vrieze, Mout; Pandey, Piyush; Bucheli, Thomas D.; et al. 
    Source: FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 6 (1295): NOV 2015 
    Document Type: Article (Details)
  • Title: Structure and mechanism of ATP-dependent phospholipid transporters 
    Author(s): Lopez-Marques, Rosa L.; Poulsen, Lisbeth Rosager; Bailly, Aurelien; et al. 
    Document Type: Review (Details)

Dr. Aurélien Bailly
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel. +41 (0)44 634 82 41

Research topics

  • Molecular plant-microbe interactions
  • Induced systemic resistance in plants
  • Plant growth- and health-promotion features of plant-associated bacteria
  • Microbial volatile organic compounds



  • Chemical signaling in plants
  • Innate immunity in plants
  • Auxin-driven plant growth responses
  • Microbiology
  • Bio/chemistry of low molecular weight compounds