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Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010
On the top left, 5-day old colonies on (counter-clockwise from left) yeast extract sucrose (YES), malt extract agar (MEA) and Czapek yeast extract agar (CYA) substrate. On the bottom left, a grape berry contaminated by ITEM 5010. On the right, conidial head on MEA. Photo credit: Massimo Ferrara from CNR-ISPA.

Aspergillus carbonarius (Bainier) Thom, J. Agric. Res. 7: 12. 1916. Series Carbonarii belongs to subgenus Circumdati section Nigri.

Aspergillus section Nigri comprises filamentous fungi relevant to biomedicine, bioenergy, health, and biotechnology. They are prolific producers of native and heterologous proteins, organic acids, and secondary metabolites, including biopharmaceuticals and mycotoxins like ochratoxin A (OTA).

Aspergillus carbonarius colonies spread with en masse black or blackish brown conidia, generally rough-walled and large, 6–9 μm. Extrolites: ochratoxins (A, B), naphtho-γ-pyrones (including aurasperone B), pyranonigrin A. This fungus is frequently isolated from air, soil, plant litter, grapes, dried fruits, nuts and other sources, like coffee and cocoa. It is ubiquitous in nature and has a cosmopolitan distribution. Aspergillus carbonarius has been described as one of the principal sources of OTA contamination in grapes and dried vine fruits worldwide. Ochratoxin A is a highly harmful metabolite classified in 1993 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, 1993) as a possible human carcinogenic toxin (group 2B).

The strain ITEM 5010 has been isolated from a grape vineyard in Italy (Apulia, Brindisi), it has been widely studied for the production of OTA in grapes and has been frequently used as a reference strain to study the biosynthetic pathway and the identification of the OTA gene cluster (Gallo et al., 2012; Gallo et al., 2014; Ferrara et al., 2016; Ferrara et al., 2020).


Gallo A, Bruno KS, Solfrizzo M, Perrone G, Mulè G, Visconti A, Baker SE. New insight into the ochratoxin A biosynthetic pathway through deletion of a nonribosomal peptide synthetase gene in Aspergillus carbonarius. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Dec;78(23):8208-18. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02508-12.

Gallo A, Knox BP, Bruno KS, Solfrizzo M, Baker SE, Perrone G. Identification and characterization of the polyketide synthase involved in ochratoxin A biosynthesis in Aspergillus carbonarius. Int J Food Microbiol. 2014 Jun 2;179:10-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2014.03.013.

Ferrara M, Perrone G, Gambacorta L, Epifani F, Solfrizzo M, Gallo A. Identification of a Halogenase Involved in the Biosynthesis of Ochratoxin A in Aspergillus carbonarius. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Aug 30;82(18):5631-41. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01209-16.

Ferrara M, Gallo A, Perrone G, Magistà D, Baker SE. Comparative Genomic Analysis of Ochratoxin A Biosynthetic Cluster in Producing Fungi: New Evidence of a Cyclase Gene Involvement. Front Microbiol. 2020 Dec 18;11:581309. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.581309.