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The secret sex life of the penicillin-producing fungus could make it more productive
Date:1/14/2013

New and more effective strains of the fungus used to produce penicillin could be developed after a team of international scientists unearthed the secret sex life of Sir Alexander Fleming's fungus Penicillium chrysogenum (P. chrysogenum).

The scientists from The University of Nottingham, Ruhr-University Bochum, The University of Gttingen, and Sandoz GmbH have announced a major breakthrough in our understanding of the sex life of the fungus P. chrysogenum. Their research looks sets to lead to the introduction of new and more effective strains of the world's first antibiotic agent and has been published online in the leading academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS).

Penicillium chrysogenum is a filamentous fungus of major medical and historical importance. It is the original and present-day industrial source of the antibiotic penicillin. For over 100 years the fungus has been thought to be asexual, but the researchers have discovered a method to entice the fungus into sexual reproduction. They've demonstrated that sexual crosses can be used to develop new strains with improved industrial characteristics.

Dr Paul Dyer, an expert in the sexual development and genetics of filamentous fungi in the School of Biology at Nottingham, said: "We now have a valuable tool for creating new strains of P. chrysogenum with increased penicillin production. This will make it cheaper to produce penicillin, as using more efficient strains will lower production costs. In the future, it is hoped our method can be applied to other fungi that produce antibiotics."

Our method might also be used to help discover hidden sexual cycles in other economically important fungi that are assumed to be exclusively asexual."

The development of penicillin

Penicillium chrysogenum first came to attention in 1928 when Sir Alexander Fleming made the fortu
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15751
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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