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Concept: Penicillium roqueforti


Although most eukaryotes reproduce sexually at some moment of their life cycle, as much as a fifth of fungal species were thought to reproduce exclusively asexually. Nevertheless, recent studies have revealed the occurrence of sex in some of these supposedly asexual species. For industrially relevant fungi, for which inoculums are produced by clonal-subcultures since decades, the potentiality for sex is of great interest for strain improvement strategies. Here, we investigated the sexual capability of the fungus Penicillium roqueforti, used as starter for blue cheese production. We present indirect evidence suggesting that recombination could be occurring in this species. The screening of a large sample of strains isolated from diverse substrates throughout the world revealed the existence of individuals of both mating types, even in the very same cheese. The MAT genes, involved in fungal sexual compatibility, appeared to evolve under purifying selection, suggesting that they are still functional. The examination of the recently sequenced genome of the FM 164 cheese strain enabled the identification of the most important genes known to be involved in meiosis, which were found to be highly conserved. Linkage disequilibria were not significant among three of the six marker pairs and 11 out of the 16 possible allelic combinations were found in the dataset. Finally, the detection of signatures of repeat induced point mutations (RIP) in repeated sequences and transposable elements reinforces the conclusion that P. roqueforti underwent more or less recent sex events. In this species of high industrial importance, the induction of a sexual cycle would open the possibility of generating new genotypes that would be extremely useful to diversify cheese products.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Eukaryote, Fungus, Asexual reproduction, Penicillium roqueforti


Fungi exhibit substantial morphological and genetic diversity, often associated with cryptic species differing in ecological niches. Penicillium roqueforti is used as a starter culture for blue-veined cheeses, being responsible for their flavor and color, but is also a common spoilage organism in various foods. Different types of blue-veined cheeses are manufactured and consumed worldwide, displaying specific organoleptic properties. These features may be due to the different manufacturing methods and/or to the specific P. roqueforti strains used. Substantial morphological diversity exists within P. roqueforti and, although not taxonomically valid, several technological names have been used for strains on different cheeses (e.g., P. gorgonzolae, P. stilton). A worldwide P. roqueforti collection from 120 individual blue-veined cheeses and 21 other substrates was analyzed here to determine (i) whether P. roqueforti is a complex of cryptic species, by applying the Genealogical Concordance Phylogenetic Species Recognition criterion (GC-PSR), (ii) whether the population structure assessed using microsatellite markers correspond to blue cheese types, and (iii) whether the genetic clusters display different morphologies. GC-PSR multi-locus sequence analyses showed no evidence of cryptic species. The population structure analysis using microsatellites revealed the existence of highly differentiated populations, corresponding to blue cheese types and with contrasted morphologies. This suggests that the population structure has been shaped by different cheese-making processes or that different populations were recruited for different cheese types. Cheese-making fungi thus constitute good models for studying fungal diversification under recent selection.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Species, Fungus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Cheese, Penicillium roqueforti


While the extent and impact of horizontal transfers in prokaryotes are widely acknowledged, their importance to the eukaryotic kingdom is unclear and thought by many to be anecdotal. Here we report multiple recent transfers of a huge genomic island between Penicillium spp. found in the food environment. Sequencing of the two leading filamentous fungi used in cheese making, P. roqueforti and P. camemberti, and comparison with the penicillin producer P. rubens reveals a 575 kb long genomic island in P. roqueforti-called Wallaby-present as identical fragments at non-homologous loci in P. camemberti and P. rubens. Wallaby is detected in Penicillium collections exclusively in strains from food environments. Wallaby encompasses about 250 predicted genes, some of which are probably involved in competition with microorganisms. The occurrence of multiple recent eukaryotic transfers in the food environment provides strong evidence for the importance of this understudied and probably underestimated phenomenon in eukaryotes.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Eukaryote, Fungus, Animal, Penicillium, Penicillium roqueforti


Artificial two-dimensional biological habitats were prepared from porous polymer layers and inoculated with the fungus Penicillium roqueforti to provide a living material. Such composites of classical industrial ingredients and living microorganisms can provide a novel form of functional or smart materials with capability for evolutionary adaptation. This allows realization of most complex responses to environmental stimuli. As a conceptual design, we prepared a material surface with self-cleaning capability when subjected to standardized food spill. Fungal growth and reproduction were observed in between two specifically adapted polymer layers. Gas exchange for breathing and transport of nutrient through a nano-porous top layer allowed selective intake of food whilst limiting the microorganism to dwell exclusively in between a confined, well-enclosed area of the material. We demonstrated a design of such living materials and showed both active (eating) and waiting (dormant, hibernation) states with additional recovery for reinitiation of a new active state by observing the metabolic activity over two full nutrition cycles of the living material (active, hibernation, reactivation). This novel class of living materials can be expected to provide nonclassical solutions in consumer goods such as packaging, indoor surfaces, and in biotechnology.

Concepts: Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Nutrition, Organism, Fungus, Penicillium roqueforti


Complex bouquet: A recently developed method for trace analyses combining the advantages of GC-MS and (13) C NMR spectroscopy was applied to investigate the volatiles of Penicillium roqueforti. Besides the main compound, aristolochene, several side products of aristolochene synthase and downstream oxidation products en route to PR toxin were identified, giving insight into the biosynthetic pathway.

Concepts: Scientific method, Amino acid, Adenosine triphosphate, Fungus, Vitamin, Protein biosynthesis, Penicillium roqueforti, Aristolochene


Penicillium roqueforti is a common food and feed contaminant. However, it is also worldwide renowned for its use as a technological culture responsible for the typicity of blue-veined cheese. Members of the P. roqueforti species are also known to be able to produce secondary metabolites including mycophenolic acid (MPA) and roquefortine C (ROQ C) mycotoxins. In order to more closely simulate the reality of mycotoxin exposure through contaminated food consumption, this work investigated the toxicological effects of MPA and ROQ C not only in acute but also in chronic (i.e. 21-days continuous exposure) conditions on Caco-2 cells. Acute exposure to high MPA or ROQ C concentrations induced an increase of IL-8 secretion. Effects of 21-days continuous exposure on barrier integrity, based on concentrations found in blue-veined cheese and mean of blue cheese intake by French consumers, were monitored. Concerning exposure to ROQ C, no alteration of the intestinal barrier was observed. In contrast, the highest tested MPA concentration (780 μM) induced a decrease in the barrier function of Caco-2 cell monolayers, but no paracellular passage of bacteria was observed. This study highlighted that exposure to MPA and ROQ C average concentrations found in blue-veined cheese does not seem to induce significant toxicological effects in the tested conditions.

Concepts: Bacteria, Fungus, Mycotoxin, Toxicology, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Penicillium roqueforti, Mold


In this study, we have characterized a novel set of extracellular enzymes produced by Penicillium chrysogenum strain HKF2. A draft genome data of 31.5 Mbp was generated and annotation suggested a total of 11,243 protein-coding genes out of which 609 were CAZymes, majority of which were found to have homology with Penicillium rubens, Penicillium chrysogenum followed by Penicillium expansum and Penicillium roqueforti. The prominent CAZyme genes identified in the draft genome encoded for enzymes involved in the production of prebiotics such as inulo-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides. Corresponding enzyme assay indicated that the isolate possessed the potential to produce 11.8 and 3.8 U/mL of β-fructofuranosidase and inulinase, respectively. This study highlights the significance of Effluent Treatment Plants as novel and under-explored niche for isolation of fungi having the potential for production of prebiotics synthesizing enzymes.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Enzyme, RNA, Fungus, Penicillium, Penicillium roqueforti


The aim of this work was to enzymatic saccharification of food waste was performed by crude enzymatic cellulolytic extract produced by P. roqueforti cultivated in yellow mombin residue. The best yield of reducing sugars (259.45mgg-1) was achieved with sugarcane bagasse after 4h; the hydrolysis of corn cob, rice husk and peanut hull resulted in yields around 128-180mgg-1. The addition of 10mmolL-1 of Mn2+ potentiated the saccharification of sugarcane bagasse, in about 86%. The temperature and substrate (sugarcane bagasse) concentration parameters were optimized using a Doehlert Design and, a maximum sugar yield of 662.34±26.72mgg-1 was achieved at 62.40°C, 0.22% (w/v) of substrate, with the addition of Mn2+. Sugar yield was significantly high when compared to previous studies available in scientific literature, suggesting the use of crude cellulolytic supplemented with Mn2+ an alternative and promising process for saccharification of sugarcane bagasse.

Concepts: Enzyme, Glucose, Fungus, Starch, Hydrolysis, Fructose, Sucrose, Penicillium roqueforti


The Penicillium genera, encompassing about 225 different species of fungi, are naturally present in the environment. These genera are poorly linked to human disease, except for Penicillium marneffei causing septicemia in immunocompromised hosts. Thus, Penicillium species recovered from respiratory tract samples are often considered as inhaled contaminants in the clinical laboratory. However, we report here a case of fungal maxillary sinusitis due to Penicillium roqueforti diagnosed in a 40-year-old female, a teacher, complaining of moderate pain for months in the maxillary sinus and chronic posterior rhinorrhea. CT scanner and MRI enabled a preliminary diagnosis of left maxillary fungus ball-type sinusitis with calcified material seen on CT and marked very low signal in T2 weighted images seen on MRI. Anatomopathological and mycological examination of sinusal content showed septate hyphae. Direct sequencing of the sinusal content revealed P. roqueforti. P. roqueforti has been traditionally used in France for more than 200 years for cheese ripening. However, to our knowledge, this ascomycetous fungus has very rarely been associated in the literature with human disease. P. roqueforti is associated only with cheese worker’s lung, a hypersensitivity pneumonitis affecting employees in blue cheese factories. Other species in the Penicillium genus are reported to cause various disorders such as invasive infection, superficial infection or allergic diseases. P. roqueforti has never previously been reported as a cause of human infection. Thus, we report the first case of fungus ball due to P. roqueforti in an immunocompetent patient.

Concepts: Disease, Fungus, Sinusitis, Allergy, Maxillary sinus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Penicillium roqueforti


Moulds food infestation is a heavy dangerous problem for human health and also could generate heavy economic losses. The intelligent packaging using eco-friendly biodegradable biofilm incorporating bioactive natural safe compounds represents a new frontier. This manuscript reports the inhibitory activity of 12 bacterial, fungal and plant metabolites against Penicillium roqueforti and Aspergillus niger. Among them α-costic acid and ungeremine (3 and 12) are the most promising as potential biofungicide against both fungal strains. They inhibited fungal growth by more than 60% respect to the control at 72 h and this activity persisted also at 96 h. Ungeremine showed MIC90 lower than 0.003 mg/mL after 48 h of incubation and of 0.025 mg/mL at 72 h against P. roqueforti. The MIC90 value for A. niger was 0.2 mg/mL at 48 h for both compounds. The α-costic acid showed generally MIC values at 48 and 72 h higher than ungeremine.

Concepts: Bacteria, Eukaryote, Fungus, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Penicillium roqueforti