Penicillium chrysogenum     

Creator of Penicillin "The Wonder Drug"                     *
                         Tom Volk - Mycology - University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
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Interesting Information
Like Fungus?
Multiple Organisms 
Shiitake Mushroom
Baker's Yeast
Bird's Nest Fungus
After being turned down for the fifth time in a row, the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum  must remind himself that he is in fact, a "fungi".


In a larger relationship sense, let's look at P. chrysogenum in a 

General Food Web of a Natural Ecosystem

  Stephanie Kitzmann - food web

By breaking down detritus materials, P. chrysogenum and other fungi convert complex carbon structures into more simple forms. This makes them the decomposers of an ecosystem. Fungi produce carbon dioxide through respiration, and they also leave behind nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil.  These nutrients and gasses are then absorbed by plants which are the producers in an ecosystem.  The plants are eaten by primary consumers, the herbivores and omnivores which in turn are eaten by secondary consumers.  Within all of these groups, organisms die and become the detritus materials which is broken down by fungi, such as P. chrysogenum.  

Human ImpactsClip art - medicine

Many items which we encounter everyday come from some type of fungi.  The most known product from P. chrysogenum is the drug Penicillin.  You can read more about the discovery of Penicillin here.  However, because this drug has had such a great impact, not many people focus on the other products derived from P. chrysogenum.   

** Who would have guessed that the growing, black spot on your shower door was really a cluster of thousands of Penicillium spores? 

Clip art - cheese** The blue cheese that your mother forces you to eat is blue for a reason; the distinctive hue is a product of  Penicillium roquefortii. This is a close relative of P. chrysogenum.

** When inhaled, Penicillium species are also known to be allergens.  A condition associated with P. chrysogenum (and other molds) called sick building syndrome (SBS) causes fatigue, itchy eyes, and headaches among other symptoms.  Interestingly, people bothered by the molds of P. chrysogenum are not bothered by the drug penicillin.  You can learn more about SBS and other conditions derived from fungi here.

** Other infections (usually in people with suppressed immune systems) can be caused by Penicillium species.  People at high risk may already be suffering from an autoimmune disease such as HIV/AIDS or types of cancer.

** P. chrysogenum is also used as a preservative in fruit juices.

** Lastly and perhaps most importantly, P. chrysogenum as well as other fungi are used as the world’s best decomposers. The human race continues to create an abundance of both synthetic and natural wastes.  Excluding some plastics and pesticides, fungi continue to break down these materials and make our world a better, cleaner place.

Clip Art

Penicillin - The Wonder Drug