Penicillium (from Latin penicillus: paintbrush) is a genus of ascomycetous fungi of major importance in the natural environment as well as food and drug production. It produces penicillin, a molecule that is used as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of bacteria inside the body.
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 green.
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 ascospores each.
Species of Penicillium are ubiquitous soil fungi preferring cool and moderate climates, commonly present wherever organic material is available. Saprophytic species of Penicillium and Aspergillus are among the best-known representatives of the Eurotiales and live mainly on organic biodegradable substances. They are commonly known as moulds and are among the main causes of food spoilage. Many species produce highly toxic mycotoxins. Some species have a blue color, commonly growing on old bread and giving it a blue fuzzy texture.
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 moulds and bacteria.
In addition to their importance in the food industry, species of Penicillium and Aspergillus serve in the production of a number of biotechnologally produced enzymes and other macromolecules, such as gluconic, citric, and tartaric acids, as well as several pectinases, lipase, amylases, cellulases, and proteases.
- Penicillium aurantiogriseum
- Penicillium bilaiae, which is an agricultural inoculant
- Penicillium camemberti, which is used in the production of Camembert and Brie cheeses
- Penicillium candidum, which is used in making Brie and Camembert. It has been reduced to synonymy with Penicillium camemberti
- Penicillium chrysogenum (previously known as Penicillium notatum), which produces the antibiotic penicillin
- Penicillium claviforme
- Penicillium commune
- Penicillium crustosum
- Penicillium digitatum
- Penicillium expansum, a plant pathogen
- Penicillium funiculosum, a plant pathogen
- Penicillium glabrum
- Penicillium glaucum, which is used in making Gorgonzola cheese
- Penicillium italicum
- Penicillium lacussarmientei
- Penicillium marneffei, a thermally dimorphic species endemic in Southeast Asia, which presents a threat of systemic infection to AIDS patients
- Penicillium purpurogenum
- Penicillium roqueforti, which is used in making Roquefort, Danish Blue cheese, and also recently Gorgonzola
- Penicillium stoloniferum
- Penicillium ulaiense
- Penicillium verrucosum produces ochratoxin A
- Penicillium viridicatum produces ochratoxin
- Harshberger, J.W. A Text-Book of Mycology and Plant Pathology. Churchill Livinstone 1917.