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Microorganisms are important factors in shaping our environment. One key characteristic that has been neglected for a long time is the ability of microorganisms to release chemically diverse volatile compounds. At present, it is clear that the blend of volatiles released by microorganisms can be very complex and often includes many unknown compounds for which the chemical structures remain to be elucidated. The biggest challenge now is to unravel the biological and ecological functions of these microbial volatiles. There is increasing evidence that microbial volatiles can act as infochemicals in interactions among microbes and between microbes and their eukaryotic hosts. Here, we review and discuss recent advances in understanding the natural roles of volatiles in microbe–microbe interactions. Specific emphasis will be given to the antimicrobial activities of microbial volatiles and their effects on bacterial quorum sensing, motility, gene expression and antibiotic resistance.
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