The production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during programmed cell death (PCD) is still insufficiently studied and their implication in the process is not well understood. The present study demonstrates that the release of VOSCs with presumed antioxidant capacity (methanethiol, dimethylsulfide and dimethyldisulfide) accompanies the cell death in chemical-stressed tobacco BY-2 suspension cultured cells. The cells were exposed to cell death inducers of biotic nature mastoparan (MP, wasp venom) and camptothecin (CPT, alkaloid), and to the abiotic stress agent CdSO4. The VOCs emission was monitored by proton-transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS). The three chemicals induced PCD expressing apoptotic-like phenotype. The identified VOSCs were emitted in response to MP and CPT but not in presence of Cd. The VOSCs production occurred within few hours after the administration of the elicitors, peaked up when 20–50 % of the cells were dead and further levelled off
with cell death advancement. This suggests that VOSCs with antioxidant activity may contribute to alleviation of cell death-associated oxidative stress at medium severity of cell death in response to the stress factors of biotic origin. The findings provide novel information about cell death defence mechanisms in chemical-challenged BY- 2 cells and show that PCD related VOSCs synthesis depends on the type of inducer.