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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Mar;68(3):1211-9.

Production of penicillin by fungi growing on food products: identification of a complete penicillin gene cluster in Penicillium griseofulvum and a truncated cluster in Penicillium verrucosum.

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  • 1Instituto de Biotecnología de León (INBIOTEC) Area de Microbiología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Universidad de León, Parque Científico de León, Avda. del Real, no. 1, 24006 León, Spain.


Mycobiota growing on food is often beneficial for the ripening and development of the specific flavor characteristics of the product, but it can also be harmful due to the production of undesirable compounds such as mycotoxins or antibiotics. Some of the fungi most frequently isolated from fermented and cured meat products such as Penicillium chrysogenum and Penicillium nalgiovense are known penicillin producers; the latter has been shown to be able to produce penicillin when growing on the surface of meat products and secrete it to the medium. The presence of penicillin in food must be avoided, since it can lead to allergic reactions and the arising of penicillin resistance in human-pathogenic bacteria. In this article we describe a study of the penicillin production ability among fungi of the genus Penicillium that are used as starters for cheese and meat products or that are frequently isolated from food products. Penicillium griseofulvum was found to be a new penicillin producer and to have a penicillin gene cluster similar to that of Penicillium chrysogenum. No other species among the studied fungi were found to produce penicillin or to possess the penicillin biosynthetic genes, except P. verrucosum, which contains the pcbAB gene (as shown by hybridization and PCR cloning of fragments of the gene) but lacks pcbC and penDE. Antibacterial activities due to the production of secondary metabolites other than penicillin were observed in some fungi.

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