Gender-specific differences between the concentrations of nonvolatile (R)/(S)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-Ol and (R)/(S)-3-hydroxy-3-methyl-hexanoic acid odor precursors in axillary secretions.

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Chemical Senses (Impact Factor: 3.28). 02/2009; 34(3):203-10. DOI: 10.1093/chemse/bjn076
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The volatile fatty acid, (R)/(S)-3-hydroxy-3-methylhexanoic acid ((R)/(S)-HMHA), and the human specific volatile thiol, (R)/(S)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol ((R)/(S)-MSH), were recently identified as major components of human sweat malodor. Their 2 corresponding precursors were subsequently isolated from sterile and odorless axillary secretions. The purpose of this work was to analyze these 2 odor precursors in 49 male and female volunteers over a period of 3 years to elucidate to which extent they are implicated in the gender-specific character of body odor. Surprisingly, the ratio between the acid precursor 1, a glutamine conjugate, and the "sulfur" precursor 2, a cysteinylglycine-S-conjugate, was 3 times higher in men than in women with no correlation with either the sweat volume or the protein concentration. Indeed, women have the potential to liberate significantly more (R)/(S)-MSH, which has a tropical fruit- and onion-like odor than (R)/(S)-HMHA (possibly transformed into (E)/(Z)-3-methyl-2-hexenoic acid) that has a cheesy, rancid odor. Parallel to this work, sensory analysis on sweat incubated with isolated skin bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis Ax3, Corynebacterium jeikeium American Type Culture Collection 43217, or Staphylococcus haemolyticus Ax4) confirmed that intrinsic composition of sweat is important for the development of body odors and may be modulated by gender differences in bacterial compositions. Sweat samples having the highest sulfur intensity were also found to be the most intense and the most unpleasant.

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