Walzia Sorokin (1871)
Penicillium (/ˌpɛnɪˈsɪliəm/) ascomycetous fungi are of major
importance in the natural environment as well as food and drug
Some members of the genus produce penicillin, a molecule that is used
as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of
bacteria. Other species are used in cheesemaking. According to the
Dictionary of the
Fungi (10th edition, 2008), the widespread genus
contains over 300 species.
4 Economic value
7 External links
The genus was first described in the scientific literature by Johann
Heinrich Friedrich Link in his 1809 work Observationes in ordines
plantarum naturales, writing "Penicillium.
Thallus e floccis
caespitosis septatis simplicibus aut ramosis fertilibus erectis apice
penicillatis", where penicillatis referred to "pencil-like" (referring
to a Camel's hair pencil brush. Link included three
species—P. candidum, P. expansum, and
P. glaucum—all of which produced a brush-like conidiophore
(asexual fruiting structure). The common apple rot fungus
P. expansum was selected as the type species.
In a 1979 monograph, John I. Pitt divided
Penicillium into four
subgenera based on conidiophore morphology and branching pattern:
Aspergilloides, Biverticillium, Furcatum, and Penicillium.
Main article: List of
Various fungi including
Aspergillus species growing in
Some penicillium mold on mandarin oranges
Selected species include;
Penicillium bilaiae, which is an agricultural inoculant
Penicillium camemberti, which is used in the production of Camembert
Penicillium candidum, which is used in making
Brie and Camembert. It
has been reduced to synonymy with
Penicillium chrysogenum (previously known as
which produces the antibiotic penicillin
Penicillium digitatum, a plant pathogen
Penicillium echinulatum produces Mycophenolic acid
Penicillium expansum, a plant pathogen
Penicillium funiculosum, a plant pathogen
Penicillium glaucum, which is used in making Gorgonzola cheese
Penicillium italicum, a plant pathogen
Penicillium marneffei, a thermally dimorphic species endemic in
Southeast Asia, which presents a threat of systemic infection to AIDS
Penicillium roqueforti, which is used in making Roquefort, Danish Blue
cheese, and also recently Gorgonzola
Penicillium verrucosum, which produces ochratoxin A
Penicillium viridicatum, which produces ochratoxin
The genus name is derived from the
Latin root penicillum, meaning
"painter's brush", and refers to the chains of conidia that resemble a
Penicillium sp. under bright field microscopy (10 × 100
magnification) with lactophenol cotton blue stain
The thallus (mycelium) typically consists of a highly branched network
of multinucleate, septate, usually colorless hyphae. Many-branched
conidiophores sprout on the mycelia, bearing individually constricted
conidiospores. The conidiospores are the main dispersal route of the
fungi, and often are green in color.
Sexual reproduction involves the production of ascospores, commencing
with the fusion of an archegonium and an antheridium, with sharing of
nuclei. The irregularly distributed asci contain eight unicellular
Penicillium are ubiquitous soil fungi preferring cool and
moderate climates, commonly present wherever organic material is
Saprophytic species of
among the best-known representatives of the
Eurotiales and live mainly
on organic biodegradable substances. Commonly known in America as
molds, they are among the main causes of food spoilage, especially
species of subgenus Penicillium. Many species produce highly toxic
mycotoxins. The ability of these
Penicillium species to grow on seeds
and other stored foods depends on their propensity to thrive in low
humidity and to colonize rapidly by aerial dispersion while the seeds
are sufficiently moist. Some species have a blue color, commonly
growing on old bread and giving it a blue fuzzy texture.
Penicillium species affect the fruits and bulbs of plants,
including P. expansum, apples and pears; P. digitatum,
citrus fruits; and P. allii, garlic. Some species are
known to be pathogenic to animals; P. corylophilum,
P. fellutanum, P. implicatum, P. janthinellum,
P. viridicatum, and P. waksmanii are potential pathogens of
mosquitoes. P. marneffei, which causes mortality in the
Vietnamese bamboo rats, has become a common opportunistic infection of
HIV-infected individuals in southeast Asia.
Penicillium species are present in the air and dust of indoor
environments, such as homes and public buildings. The fungus can be
readily transported from the outdoors, and grow indoors using building
material or accumulated soil to obtain nutrients for growth.
Penicillium growth can still occur indoors even if the relative
humidity is low, as long as there is sufficient moisture available on
a given surface. A British study determined that Aspergillus- and
Penicillium-type spores were the most prevalent in the indoor air of
residential properties, and exceeded outdoor levels. Even ceiling
tiles can support the growth of Penicillium—as one study
demonstrated—if the relative humidity is 85% and the moisture
content of the tiles is greater than 2.2%.
Penicillium species cause damage to machinery and the combustible
materials and lubricants used to run and maintain them. For example,
P. chrysogenum, P. steckii, P. notatum,
P. cyclopium, and P. nalgiovensis affect fuels;
P. chrysogenum, P. rubrum, and P. verrucosum cause
damage to oils and lubricants; P. regulosum damages optical and
Core structure of penicillin
Several species of the genus
Penicillium play a central role in the
production of cheese and of various meat products. To be specific,
Penicillium molds are found in Blue cheese.
Penicillium camemberti and
Penicillium roqueforti are the molds on Camembert, Brie, Roquefort,
and many other cheeses.
Penicillium nalgiovense is used to improve the
taste of sausages and hams, and to prevent colonization by other molds
In addition to their importance in the food industry, species of
Aspergillus serve in the production of a number of
biotechnologically produced enzymes and other macromolecules, such as
gluconic, citric, and tartaric acids, as well as several pectinases,
lipase, amylases, cellulases, and proteases. Some
have shown potential for use in bioremediation, more specifically
mycoremediation, because of their ability to break down a variety of
Penicillium also prevents bacteria from
affecting the body.
The genus includes a wide variety of species molds that are the source
molds of major antibiotics. Penicillin, a drug produced by
P. chrysogenum (formerly P. notatum), was accidentally
Alexander Fleming in 1929, and found to inhibit the
Gram-positive bacteria (see beta-lactams). Its potential as
an antibiotic was realized in the late 1930s, and
Howard Florey and
Ernst Chain purified and concentrated the compound. The drug's success
in saving soldiers in World War II who had been dying from infected
wounds resulted in Fleming, Florey and Chain jointly winning the Nobel
Prize in Medicine in 1945.
Griseofulvin is an antifungal drug and a potential chemotherapeutic
agent that was discovered in P. griseofulvum. Additional
species that produce compounds capable of inhibiting the growth of
tumor cells in vitro include: P. pinophilum,
P. canescens, and P. glabrum.
Although many eukaryotes are able to reproduce sexually, as much as
20% of fungal species had been thought to reproduce exclusively by
asexual means. However recent studies have revealed that sex occurs
even in some of the supposedly asexual species. For example, sexual
capability was recently shown for the fungus
used as a starter for blue cheese production. This finding was
based, in part, on evidence for functional mating type (MAT) genes
that are involved in fungal sexual compatibility, and the presence in
the sequenced genome of most of the important genes known to be
involved in meiosis.
Penicillium chrysogenum is of major medical and
historical importance as the original and present-day industrial
source of the antibiotic penicillin. The species was considered
asexual for more than 100 years despite concerted efforts to induce
sexual reproduction. However, in 2013, Bohm et al. finally
demonstrated sexual reproduction in P. chrysogenum.
Penicillium marneffei, an AIDS-associated pathogen, was also
previously assumed to reproduce exclusively by asexual means. This
assumption was largely based on the highly clonal population structure
of this species. However, recent work has revealed that the genes
required for meiosis are present in P. marneffei. This and other
evidence indicated that mating and genetic recombination does occur in
this species. It was concluded that P. marneffei is sexually
reproducing, but recombination is most likely to occur across
spatially and genetically limited distances in natural populations
resulting in a highly clonal population structure.
These findings with
Penicillium species are consistent with
accumulating evidence from studies of other eukaryotic species that
sex was likely present in the common ancestor of all
eukaryotes. Furthermore, these recent results suggest that sex
can be maintained even when very little genetic variability is
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Penicillium.
Wikisource has the text of the 1921
Collier's Encyclopedia article
Samson, R.A.; Pitt, J.I. (2000). Integration of Modern Taxonomic
Aspergillus Classification. CRC Press.
p. 66. ISBN 9058231593.
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Reported from Turkey" (PDF). Mycotaxon. 89 (1): 155–7.