A whiff of the future: functions of phenylalanine-derived aroma compounds and advances in their industrial production

Oded Skaliter, Yarin Livneh, Shani Agron, Sharoni Shafir, Alexander Vainstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Plants produce myriad aroma compounds—odorous molecules that are key factors in countless aspects of the plant's life cycle, including pollinator attraction and communication within and between plants. For humans, aroma compounds convey accurate information on food type, and are vital for assessing the environment. The phenylpropanoid pathway is the origin of notable aroma compounds, such as raspberry ketone and vanillin. In the last decade, great strides have been made in elucidating this pathway with the identification of numerous aroma-related biosynthetic enzymes and factors regulating metabolic shunts. These scientific achievements, together with public acknowledgment of aroma compounds' medicinal benefits and growing consumer demand for natural products, are driving the development of novel biological sources for wide-scale, eco-friendly, and inexpensive production. Microbes and plants that are readily amenable to metabolic engineering are garnering attention as suitable platforms for achieving this goal. In this review, we discuss the importance of aroma compounds from the perspectives of humans, pollinators and plant–plant interactions. Focusing on vanillin and raspberry ketone, which are of high interest to the industry, we present key knowledge on the biosynthesis and regulation of phenylalanine-derived aroma compounds, describe advances in the adoption of microbes and plants as platforms for their production, and propose routes for improvement.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1651-1669
Number of pages19
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • aroma compounds
  • heterologous systems
  • metabolic engineering
  • microbes
  • phenylalanine
  • phenylpropanoids


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