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An overviewon Toxic Mold...
In biology, a conspicuous mass of mycelium and fruiting structures
produced by various fungi.
Molds of the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Rhizopus are
associated with food spoilage and plant diseases, but some have
beneficial uses, as in the manufacture of antibiotics (e.g., penicillin)
and certain cheeses. Neurospora, or orange bread mold, has been
invaluable in the study of biochemical genetics. Water molds live
in fresh or brackish water or wet soils, absorbing dead or decaying
organic matter. See also slime mold.
Mold (fungi), fuzzy, cobweblike growth produced on organic matter
by several types of fungi. Mold and mildew are commonly used interchangeably,
although mold is often applied to black, blue, green, and red
fungal growths, and mildew to whitish growths.
Black bread mold, Aspergillus niger, one of the most familiar
molds, begins as a microscopic, airborne spore that germinates
on contact with the moist surface of nonliving organic matter.
It spreads rapidly, forming the mycelium (fungal body), which
is made up of a fine network of filaments (hyphae). The mycelium
produces other clusters of rootlike hyphae, called rhizoids, which
penetrate the organic material, secreting enzymes and absorbing
water and the digested sugars and starches. Other clusters of
hyphae called sporangiophores then reach upward, forming sporangia
(knoblike spore cases), which bear the particular color of the
mold species. Upon ripening, the sporangia break open and the
windborne spores land elsewhere to reproduce asexually.
Some molds also reproduce sexually through conjugation of gamete
cells by the joining of two specialized hyphae. The resulting
zygote matures into a zygospore that germinates after a dormant
Molds thrive on a great many organic substances and, provided
with sufficient moisture, they rapidly disintegrate wood, paper,
and leather. In fruit the enzymes penetrate well behind the area
of the visible growths to damage the fruit. Besides being destructive,
however, molds also have many industrial uses, such as in the
fermentation of organic acids and cheeses. Camembert and Roquefort
cheeses, for example, gain their particular flavors from the enzymes
of Penicillium camemberti and P. roqueforti, respectively. Penicillin,
a product of the green mold P. notatum, revolutionized antibiotic
drugs after its discovery in 1929, and the red bread mold Neurospora
is an important tool in genetic experiments.
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