name = "Aspergillus"

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Conidial head of "Aspergillus niger"
regnum = Fungi
phylum = Deuteromycota
classis = Eurotiomycetes
ordo = Eurotiales
familia = Trichocomaceae
genus = "Aspergillus"
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = about 200, including: "Aspergillus caesiellus" "Aspergillus candidus" "Aspergillus carneus" "Aspergillus clavatus" "Aspergillus deflectus" "Aspergillus flavus" "Aspergillus fumigatus" "Aspergillus glaucus" "Aspergillus nidulans" "Aspergillus niger" "Aspergillus ochraceus" "Aspergillus oryzae" "Aspergillus parasiticus" "Aspergillus penicilloides" "Aspergillus restrictus" "Aspergillus sojae" "Aspergillus sydowi" "Aspergillus tamari" "Aspergillus terreus" "Aspergillus ustus" "Aspergillus versicolor"

"Aspergillus" is a genus of around 200 molds found throughout much of nature worldwide. "Aspergillus" was first catalogued in 1729 by the Italian priest and biologist Pier Antonio Micheli. Viewing the fungi under a microscope, Micheli was reminded of the shape of an aspergillum (holy water sprinkler), and named the genus accordingly.

Growth and distribution

"Aspergillus" species are highly aerobic and are found in almost all oxygen-rich environments, where they commonly grow as molds on the surface of a substrate, as a result of the high oxygen tension. "In recent studies, increased levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) were shown to be correlated with increased levels of aflatoxin biosynthesis in aspergillus parasiticus."(3) Commonly, fungi grow on carbon-rich substrates such as monosaccharides (such as glucose) and polysaccharides (such as amylose). "Aspergillus" species are common contaminants of starchy foods (such as bread and potatoes), and grow in or on many plants and trees.

In addition to growth on carbon sources, many species of "Aspergillus" demonstrate oligotrophy where they are capable of growing in nutrient-depleted environments, or environments in which there is a complete lack of key nutrients. "A. niger" is a prime example of this; it can be found growing on damp walls, as a major component of mildew.

Commercial importance

Species of "Aspergillus" are important medically and commercially. Some species can cause infection in humans and other animals. Some infections found in animals have been studied for years. Some species found in animals have been described as new and specific to the investigated disease and others have been known as names already in use for organisms such as saprophytes." More than 60 names of species of Aspergillus are encountered in the literature of pathology"(4) For humans cases a whole range of affections such as affection to the external ear,skin lesions, and ulcers classed as mycetomas. Others are important in commercial microbial fermentations.

For example, alcoholic beverages such as Japanese sake are often made from rice or other starchy ingredients (like manioc), rather than from grapes or malted barley. Typical microorganisms used to make alcohol, such as yeasts of the genus Saccharomyces, cannot ferment these starches, and so "koji" mold such as "Aspergillus oryzae" is used instead.

Members of the genus are also sources of natural products that can be used in the development of medications to treat human disease.Cite patent|US|6069146]

Perhaps the most well-known application of "A. niger" is as the major source of citric acid; this organism accounts for over 99% of global citric acid production, or more than 4.5 million tonnes per annum. "A. niger" is also commonly used for the production of native and foreign enzymes, including glucose oxidase and hen egg white lysozyme. In these instances, the culture is rarely grown on a solid substrate, although this is still common practice in Japan, but is more often grown as a submerged culture in a bioreactor. In this way, the most important parameters can be strictly controlled, and maximal productivity can be achieved. It also makes it far easier to separate the chemical or enzyme of importance from the medium, and is therefore far more cost-effective.


"A. nidulans" has been used as a research organism for many years and was used by Guido Pontecorvo to demonstrate parasexuality in fungi. Recently, "A. nidulans" was one of the pioneering organisms to have its genome sequenced by researchers at the Broad Institute. Now, many "Aspergillus" species have had their genomes sequenced, including "A. fumigatus", "A. oryzae" and "A. niger".

It has been shown that oxidative stress is recognized as a trigger of different metabolic events in all organisms. Research show that "the lack of the ApyapA gene leads to an increase in oxidative stress,premature conidiogenesis and aflatoxin biosynthesis."(3) During this study, "the ApyapA orthologs have also been shown to be part of the antioxidant response in other fungi."(3)


Some "Aspergillus" species cause serious disease in humans and animals, and can be pathogenic. The most common causing invasive disease are "Aspergillus fumigatus" and "Aspergillus flavus". Aspergillus flavus producesaflatoxin which is both a toxin and a carcinogen, and which can potentially contaminate foods such as nuts. The most common causing allergic disease are "Aspergillus fumigatus" and "Aspergillus clavatus". Other species are important as agricultural pathogens. "Aspergillus" spp. cause disease on many grain crops, especially maize, and synthesize mycotoxins including aflatoxin.


Aspergillosis is the group of diseases caused by "Aspergillus". The most common subtype among paranasal sinus infections associated with aspergillosis is aspergillus fumigatus.(1) The symptoms include fever, cough, chest pain or breathlessness, which also occur in many other illnesses so diagnosis can be difficult. Usually, only patients with already weakened immune systems or who suffer other lung conditions are susceptible.

In humans, the major forms of disease are:
# Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis or ABPA (affects patients with symptoms that produce significant respiratory morbidity such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and sinusitis).
# Acute invasive aspergillosis (risk increases if patient has weakened immunity such as some AIDS patients and those undergoing chemotherapy).
# Disseminated invasive aspergillosis ( through body).

Aspergillosis of the air passages is also frequently reported in birds, and certain species of "Aspergillus" have been known to infect insects.(4)


* 1. Bozkurt MK, Ozcelik T, Saydam L, Kutluay L. [A case of isolated aspergillosis of the maxillary sinus] . Kulak Burun Bogaz Ihtis Derg. 2008; 18(1): 53-5.
* 2. Du C, Lin SK, Koutinas A, Wang R, Dorado P, Webb C. “A wheat biorefining strategy based on solid-state fermentation for fermentative production of succinic acid.” Bioresour Technol. 21 April 2008.
* 3. Reverberi M, Zjalic S, Ricelli A, Punelli F, Camera E, Fabbri C, Picardo M, Fanelli C, Fabbri AA. “Modulation of Antioxidant defense in Aspergillus Parasiticus is involved in Aflatoxin Biosynthesis: A role for ApyapA gene”. Eukaryot Cell. 25 April 2008.
* 4. Thom C, Church M. The Aspergilli. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1926.
* 5. Zirbes JM, Milla CE. “Steroid-Sparing effect of omalizumab for allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and cystic fibrosis”. 23 April 2008; 43(6):607-610.

See also

* Mycotoxin
* Sick building syndrome (SBS)
* Mold health issues
* Aspergilloma

External links

* [ Aspergillus Genome Resources (NIH)]
* [ The Aspergillus Trust] A registered UK charity engaged in support to sufferers of "Aspergillus" disease worldwide and research into cures
* [ Aspergillus Comparative Database] Comparative genomic resource at the Broad Institute
* [ The Fungal Genetics Stock Center]
* [ The Aspergillus/Aspergillosis Website] An encyclopedia of "Aspergillus" for patients, doctors and scientists
* [ Fungi and "Aspergillus"] A lecture titled "Fungi" given at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
* [ "Aspergillus" surveillance project at a large tertiary-care hospital.] (PDF).

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