Drosophila melanogaster as a model to characterize fungal volatile organic compounds

Arati A. Inamdar, Taslim Zaman, Shannon U. Morath, David C. Pu, Joan W. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Fungi are implicated in poor indoor air quality and may pose a potential risk factor for building/mold related illnesses. Fungi emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as alcohols, esters, ethers, ketones, aldehydes, terpenoids, thiols, and their derivatives. The toxicity profile of these VOCs has never been explored in a model organism, which could enable the performance of high throughput toxicological assays and lead to a better understanding of the mechanism of toxicity. We have established a reductionist Drosophila melanogaster model to evaluate the toxicity of fungal VOCs. In this report, we assessed the toxicity of fungal VOCs emitted from living cultures of species in the genera, Trichoderma, Aspergillus, and Penicillium and observed a detrimental effect on larval survival. We then used chemical standards of selected fungal VOCs to assess their toxicity on larval and adult Drosophila. We compared the survival of adult flies exposed to these fungal VOCs with known industrial toxic chemicals (formaldehyde [37%], xylene, benzene, and toluene). Among the tested fungal VOC standards, the compounds with eight carbons (C8) caused greater truncation of fly lifespan than tested non-C8 fungal VOCs and industrial toxins. Our data validate the use of Drosophila melanogaster as a model with the potential to elucidate the mechanistic attributes of different toxic VOCs emitted by fungi and also to explore the potential link between reported human illnesses/symptoms and exposure to water damaged and mold contaminated buildings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-836
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Building related illness
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Fungi
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

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