Fungi In Industry

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Fungi produce many products used in nonfood industries. Several fungal species are used in the production of important medicines. For example, species of the genus Penicillium produce the antibiotic penicillin, and species of the genus Cephalosporium produce cephalosporin antibiotics. Species of the genus Rhizopus cause chemical transformations of specific chemicals to make cortisone, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat skin rashes and reduce joint swelling.

The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an important tool in genetic engineering. For example, the vaccine for hepatitis B was developed by inserting hepatitis B genes into yeast plasmids. The yeast uses the inserted viral genes to produce viral proteins that are used as vaccines. Yeast is also used to produce ethanol, a main ingredient in the automobile fuel gasohol.

figure 26-10

Poisonous mushrooms, such as this Amanita virosa (death angel) harm people when they are mistaken for edible mushrooms.

figure 26-10

Poisonous mushrooms, such as this Amanita virosa (death angel) harm people when they are mistaken for edible mushrooms.

figure 26-11

Morels and truffles are prized for their delicate flavor. Truffles (top) grow in association with oak trees. Morels (bottom) grow wild in the Americas and are usually found in the spring.

figure 26-11

Morels and truffles are prized for their delicate flavor. Truffles (top) grow in association with oak trees. Morels (bottom) grow wild in the Americas and are usually found in the spring.

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Fungi and Food Industries

Many fungi are valuable food sources for humans. Yeast, such as species of the genus Saccharomyces, is an important nutritional supplement because it contains vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Species of the genus Agaricus (white button), shiitake, and portabella mushrooms are often found in grocery stores in the United States. People also prize the taste of other fungi, such as truffles and morels, which are pictured in Figure 26-11. Truffles and morels are ascocarps found near the roots of trees. Table 26-3 summarizes some of the uses of fungi in food.

Fungi can also cause damage to foods. Many fungi are important plant pathogens that attack grain or fruit. For example, wheat rust is a basidiomycete that attacks wheat grains. Other fungi can attack crops such as corn, beans, onions, squashes, and tomatoes.

Fungi also produce several chemical compounds that are important to the food-processing industry, such as citric and gluconic acids. Citric acid is used in soft drinks and candies. Ashbya gossypii is a producer of vitamin B2, an important nutritional supplement.

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