Penicillium chrysogenum     

Creator of Penicillin "The Wonder Drug"                     *
                         Tom Volk - Mycology - University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
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General Information

 As P. chrysogenum belongs to the most mysterious, unfamiliar kingdom (the fungi), it is not surprising that little is commonly known about the organism.  Thus, I have included in my webpage some general information which may come in use some day.  For example, you may find yourself standing face to face with Alex Trebek, a mixture of sweat and adrenaline taking over your body, and he asks a question on the common habitat of Penicillium chrysogenum.  The choice is yours: read on and win your wager or stop now and let the overly intelligent, socially lacking boy who’s half your age win the game. 


Like most members of the Penicillium genus, P. chrysogenum is a filamentous fungus.  It usually sports a wooly to cotton-like appearance which starts out as a whitish color and over time changes to different shades of blue/green, yellow, pink or grey. 

                              Tom Volk - Mycology - University of Wisconsin, La Crosse


Because P. chrysogenum is a heterotrophic organism, it does not depend on light to survive.  This characteristic allows the organism to live in multiple habitats. Thus, P. chrysogenum is less likely to adapt to its environment, but instead flourish in an environment which is adapted to it.

species are found in a variety of niches. However, they prefer areas which are dark and damp. Moist conditions are favored among most fungi to avoid drying out. This is a common problem fungi face because they like to have maximum surface area to increase the amount of nutrition they can ingest. Wind is a large help in spreading the reproductive spores of P. chrysogenum. Thus, it is most common to find the fungus in temperate areas.

Common natural habitats of P. chrysogenum include soil, decaying vegetation, cultivated land, and temperate forest areas. You may also encounter P. chrysogenum in your own household in moist areas such as the bathroom, refrigerator, or window sills. Other fungi which you may find in these same regions include: Penicillium fumiculosum which is used in antibiotics and Pencilium expansum
which causes the soft spots on apples.


Do you ever wonder what happens to your banana peel when you throw it out the car window?  Or, why a forest floor isn’t forever covered in leaves after the fall season? 

Using digestive enzymes (called exoenzymes) fungi can break down almost all man made and naturally occurring materials, P. chrysogenum is no exception. The process which fungi break down complex nutrients into more simple carbon compounds is extremely interesting. 

              Dr. Gareth Wyn Griffith - Lecturer in Mycology

It is a process of first externally digesting nutrients followed by the ingestion of them.  After P. chrysogenum ingests the nutrients, the nutrients are spread throughout the vegetative body called the hyphae.  Any unused nutrients are stored unused as glycogen.  This is similar to the way animals store their foods. You can learn more about this process and the different symbiotic relationships of fungi here. 


As described above, P. chrysogenum is known to derive much of its nutrition from decaying vegetation or from a parasitic relationship with other organisms seen as allergens.  In this specific parasitic relationship humans often serve as the host.  A second way fungi receive nutrients is through forming lichen.  Lichen is a mutualistic relationship which includes both a fungi (usually from the phylum ascomycota) and an algae or cyanobacteria.  Based on the lineage of P. chrysogenum it is generally assumed that it has evolved from the lichen-forming fungi.

                           Clip Art - Lichen