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Concept: Penicillium


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


The genome of P. marneffei, the most important thermal dimorphic fungus causing respiratory, skin and systemic mycosis in China and Southeast Asia, possesses 23 polyketide synthase (PKS) genes and 2 polyketide synthase nonribosomal peptide synthase hybrid (PKS-NRPS) genes, which is of high diversity compared to other thermal dimorphic pathogenic fungi. We hypothesized that the yellow pigment in the mold form of P. marneffei could also be synthesized by one or more PKS genes.

Concepts: Bacteria, Amino acid, Southeast Asia, Fungus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Nonribosomal peptide, Polyketide synthase


Domestication is an excellent model for studies of adaptation because it involves recent and strong selection on a few, identified traits [1-5]. Few studies have focused on the domestication of fungi, with notable exceptions [6-11], despite their importance to bioindustry [12] and to a general understanding of adaptation in eukaryotes [5]. Penicillium fungi are ubiquitous molds among which two distantly related species have been independently selected for cheese making-P. roqueforti for blue cheeses like Roquefort and P. camemberti for soft cheeses like Camembert. The selected traits include morphology, aromatic profile, lipolytic and proteolytic activities, and ability to grow at low temperatures, in a matrix containing bacterial and fungal competitors [13-15]. By comparing the genomes of ten Penicillium species, we show that adaptation to cheese was associated with multiple recent horizontal transfers of large genomic regions carrying crucial metabolic genes. We identified seven horizontally transferred regions (HTRs) spanning more than 10 kb each, flanked by specific transposable elements, and displaying nearly 100% identity between distant Penicillium species. Two HTRs carried genes with functions involved in the utilization of cheese nutrients or competition and were found nearly identical in multiple strains and species of cheese-associated Penicillium fungi, indicating recent selective sweeps; they were experimentally associated with faster growth and greater competitiveness on cheese and contained genes highly expressed in the early stage of cheese maturation. These findings have industrial and food safety implications and improve our understanding of the processes of adaptation to rapid environmental changes.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Fungus, Penicillium, Cheese


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


It has previously been shown that the biosynthesis of the mycotoxins ochratoxin A and B and of citrinin by Penicillium is regulated by light. However, not only the biosynthesis of these mycotoxins, but also the molecules themselves are strongly affected by light of certain wavelengths. The white light and blue light of 470 and 455 nm are especially able to degrade ochratoxin A, ochratoxin B and citrinin after exposure for a certain time. After the same treatment of the secondary metabolites with red (627 nm), yellow (590 nm) or green (530 nm) light or in the dark, almost no degradation occurred during that time indicating the blue light as the responsible part of the spectrum. The two derivatives of ochratoxin (A and B) are degraded to certain definitive degradation products which were characterized by HPLC-FLD-FTMS. The degradation products of ochratoxin A and B did no longer contain phenylalanine however were still chlorinated in the case of ochratoxin A. Citrinin is completely degraded by blue light. A fluorescent band was no longer visible after detection by TLC suggesting a higher sensitivity and apparently greater absorbance of energy by citrinin. The fact that especially blue light degrades the three secondary metabolites is apparently attributed to the absorption spectra of the metabolites which all have an optimum in the short wave length range. The absorption range of citrinin is, in particular, broader and includes the wave length of blue light. In wheat, which was contaminated with an ochratoxin A producing culture of Penicillium verrucosum and treated with blue light after a pre-incubation by the fungus, the concentration of the preformed ochratoxin A reduced by roughly 50% compared to the control and differed by > 90% compared to the sample incubated further in the dark. This indicates that the light degrading effect is also exerted in vivo, e.g., on food surfaces. The biological consequences of the light instability of the toxins are discussed.

Concepts: Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Mycotoxin, Wavelength, Penicillium, Visible spectrum, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


Red rice is a fermented product of Monascus spp. It is widely consumed by Malaysian Chinese who believe in its pharmacological properties. The traditional method of red rice preparation disregards safety regulation and renders red rice susceptible to fungal infestation and mycotoxin contamination. A preliminary study was undertaken aiming to determine the occurrence of mycotoxigenic fungi and mycotoxins contamination on red rice at consumer level in Selangor, Malaysia. Fifty red rice samples were obtained and subjected to fungal isolation, enumeration, and identification. Citrinin, aflatoxin, and ochratoxin-A were quantitated by ELISA based on the presence of predominant causal fungi. Fungal loads of 1.4 × 10(4) to 2.1 × 10(6) CFU/g exceeded Malaysian limits. Monascus spp. as starter fungi were present in 50 samples (100 %), followed by Penicillium chrysogenum (62 %), Aspergillus niger (54 %), and Aspergillus flavus (44 %). Citrinin was present in 100 % samples (0.23-20.65 mg/kg), aflatoxin in 92 % samples (0.61-77.33 μg/kg) and Ochratoxin-A in 100 % samples (0.23-2.48 μg/kg); 100 % citrinin and 76.09 % aflatoxin exceeded Malaysian limits. The presence of mycotoxigenic fungi served as an indicator of mycotoxins contamination and might imply improper production, handling, transportation, and storage of red rice. Further confirmatory analysis (e.g., HPLC) is required to verify the mycotoxins level in red rice samples and to validate the safety status of red rice.

Concepts: Fungus, Aspergillus flavus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Mold


Chitin synthases, that catalyze the formation of chitin the major component of cell walls in most filamentous fungi, play crucial roles in the growth and morphogenesis. To investigate the roles of chitin synthase in Penicillium chrysogenum, we developed an RNAi system to silence the class III chitin synthase gene chs4. After transformation, mutants had a slow growth rate and shorter but highly branched hyphae. All transformants either were unable to form conidia or could form only a few. Changes in chs4 expression could lead to a completely different morphology and eventually cause distinct penicillin yields. In particular, the yield of one transformant was 41 % higher than that of the original strain.

Concepts: Cell, Bacteria, Enzyme, Virus, Fungus, Cell wall, Ascomycota, Penicillium


AIMS: to investigate the interactions between Botrytis cinerea and other moulds during grape withering and post-harvest infection to obtain noble-rotten grapes. METHODS AND RESULTS: Strains of Botrytis cinerea, Penicillium expansum, Penicillium crustosum, Aspergillus niger, Fusarium verticilloides and Alternaria alternata, isolated from naturally withered grapes and identified by molecular tools, were used to infect Garganega and Corvina grapes. Individually sterilized berries were infected by a single inoculation of each strain or a simultaneous inoculation of B. cinerea together with one of each of the other moulds. Withering kinetics, glycerol, gluconic acid, total polyphenols, total anthocyanins and laccase activity greatly varied among each strain and also in respect to untreated berries. Successful noble rot settlement was ascertained by an additional infection assay carried out on non-sterilized berries. CONCLUSIONS: The suitability of inducing noble rot infection during grape withering and the improvement of the health of noble-rotten grapes has been demonstrated. © 2012The Authors Journal of Applied Microbiology © 2012 The Society for Applied Microbiology.

Concepts: Infection, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Plant pathogens and diseases, Grape, Viticulture, Alternaria alternata


Many fungi can develop on building material in indoor environments if moisture is high enough. Among species that are frequently observed, some are known to be potent mycotoxin producers. This presence of toxinogenic fungi in indoor environments raises the question of the possible exposure of occupants to these toxic compounds by inhalation after aerosolization.This study investigated the mycotoxin production by Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum during their growth on wallpaper and the possible subsequent aerosolization of produced mycotoxins from contaminated substrates.We demonstrated that mycophenolic acid, sterigmatocystin and macrocyclic trichothecenes (sum of 4 major compounds) could be produced at levels of 1.8, 112.1 and 27.8 mg/m(2), respectively on wallpaper. Moreover, part of the produced toxins could be aerosolized from substrate. The propensity to aerosolization differed according to the fungal species. Thus, particles were aerosolized from wallpaper contaminated with P. brevicompactum when air velocity of just 0.3 m/s was applied, where S. chartarum required air velocity of 5.9 m/s. A versicolor was intermediate since aerosolization occurred under air velocity of 2 m/s.Quantification of the toxic content revealed that toxic load was mostly associated with particles of size equal or higher of 3 μm, which may correspond to spores. However, some macrocyclic trichothecenes (especially satratoxin H and verrucarin J) can also be found on smaller particles that can penetrate deeply in the respiratory tract upon inhalation. These elements are important for risk assessment related to mouldy environments.IMPORTANCE The possible colonisation of building material by toxinogenic fungi in case of moistening raises the question of the subsequent exposure of occupants to aerosolized mycotoxins. In this study, we demonstrated that three different toxinogenic species produce mycotoxins during their development on wallpaper. These toxins can subsequently be aerosolized, at least partly, from mouldy material. This transfer to air requires air velocities that can be encountered in « real life conditions » in buildings. The most part of the aerosolized toxic load is found in particles whose size corresponds to spores or mycelium fragments. However, some toxins were also found on particles smaller than spores that are easily respirable and can deeply penetrate into human respiratory tract. All these data are important for risk assessment related to fungal contamination of indoor environments.

Concepts: Fungus, Mycotoxin, Respiratory system, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mushroom, Stachybotrys, Mold


Gliadin films cross-linked with cinnamaldehyde (1.5, 3, and 5%) and incorporated with natamycin (0.5%) were prepared by casting, and their antifungal activity, water resistance, and barrier properties were characterized. Incorporation of natamycin gave rise to films with greater water uptake, weight loss and diameter gain, and higher water vapor and oxygen permeabilities. These results may be associated to a looser packing of the protein chains as a consequence of the presence of natamycin. The different cross-linking degree of the matrices influenced the natamycin migration to the agar test media, increasing from 13.3 to 23.7 (μg/g of film) as the percentage of cinnamaldehyde was reduced from 5% to 1.5%. Antifungal activity of films was assayed against common food spoilage fungi (Penicillium species, Alternaria solani, Colletotrichum acutatum). The greatest effectiveness was obtained for films containing natamycin and treated with 5% of cinnamaldehyde. The level of cinnamaldehyde reached in the head-space of the test assay showed a diminishing trend as a function of time, which was in agreement with fungal growth and cinnamaldehyde metabolization. Developed active films were used in the packaging of cheese slices showing promising results for their application in active packaging against food spoilage.

Concepts: Protein, Oxygen, Fungus, Water, Water vapor, Penicillium, Colletotrichum, Colletotrichum acutatum