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Int J Food Microbiol. 2011 Jan 31;145(1):57-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2010.11.025. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

The extreme xerophilic mould Xeromyces bisporus--growth and competition at various water activities.

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Department of Microbiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7025, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.


Little is known about the mould, Xeromyces bisporus, unique in its strong xerophilicity and ability to grow at water activity (a(w)) 0.62, lower than for any other known organism. The linear growth rates of one fast and one slow-growing strain of X. bisporus were assessed at 20, 25, 30 and 37 °C on solid agar media containing a mixture of glucose and fructose to reduce a(w) to 0.94, 0.88, 0.84, 0.80, 0.76 and 0.66. Growth rates of xerophilic species closely related to X. bisporus, viz. Chrysosporium inops, C. xerophilum and Monascus eremophilus, were also assessed. Optimal conditions for growth of both X. bisporus strains were approx. 0.84 a(w) and 30°C, despite FRR 2347 growing two- to five-fold faster than CBS 185.75. X. bisporus FRR 2347 even grew well at 0.66 a(w) (0.48 mm/day). C. inops and C. xerophilum were more tolerant of high a(w) than X. bisporus, and could be differentiated from each other based on: the faster growth of C. xerophilum; its preference for temperatures ≥ 30 °C and a(w) ≥ 0.94 (c.f.≤ 25 °C and ~0.88 a(w) for C. inops); and its ability to grow at 0.66 a(w), which is the lowest a(w) reported to date for this species. M. eremophilus grew slowly (max. 0.4mm/day) even in its optimal conditions of ~0.88 a(w) and 25 °C. To investigate the competitive characteristics of X. bisporus at low a(w), both X. bisporus strains were grown in dual-culture with xerotolerant species Aspergillus flavus and Penicillium roqueforti, and xerophilic species A. penicillioides, C. inops, C. xerophilum and Eurotium chevalieri, on glucose-fructose agar plates at 0.94, 0.84, 0.80 and 0.76 a(w) and at 25 °C. Growth rates and types of interactions were assessed. Excretion of inhibitory substances acting over a long-range was not observed by any species; inhibitors acting over a short-range that temporarily slowed competitors' growth or produced a protective zone around the colony were occasionally observed for A. penicillioides, C. inops and C. xerophilum. Instead, rapid growth relative to the competitor was the most common means of dominance. The xerotolerant species, A. flavus and P. roqueforti were dominant over X. bisporus at 0.94 a(w). E. chevalieri was often dominant due to its rapid growth over the entire a(w) range. At a(w)<0.80, X. bisporus was competitive because it grew faster than the other species examined. This supports the concept that its ideal environmental niche is sugary foods with low a(w).

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