Crop Biotech Update

Sexual Cycle in Fungi to Increase Penicillin Production

January 16, 2013

The fungus Penicillum chrysogenum was found early in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming to attack plated bacterial colonies, through the release of penicillin. Since then, penicillin was used for decades to treat patients from illness caused by bacterial infection. The fungi was thought of as asexually propagated, hence, development of efficient penicillin-releasing strains was difficult.

Recently, an international group of scientists from the University of Nottingham, Ruhr-University Bochum, The University of Göttingen, and Sandoz GmbH led by Prof. Ulrich Kück and Stefanie Pöggeler from Germany found that sexual reproduction in P. chrysogenum can be induced. This can be done by mating the compatible strains in the dark on oatmeal with a vitamin supplement. With this finding it will now be possible to create new strains of P. chrysogenum with increased penicillin production; will allow low cost production of penicillin using more efficient strains; and the method may also help discover hidden sexual cycles in other economically important fungi that are assumed to be exclusively asexual.

See the story at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/pressreleases/2013/january/the-secret-sex-life-of-the-penicillin.aspx