Penicillin Fungus Can Reproduce Sexually


Fungi are a diverse group, from microscopic molds to large, forest-dwelling mushrooms. This article pertains to some interesting news related to the former, smaller end of the group. As I am certain you are already aware, mold tends to reproduce either asexually or sexually-and most commonly asexually, by forming spores. As of 2013, the previously thought asexually-reproducing Penicillium chrysogenum has been shown to have a sexual side as well. An international research team led by Julia Böhm and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kück of the Chair of General and Molecular Botany at the Ruhr-Universität has displayed that the fungus mold also has a sexual cycle, i.e. two sexes. Through the sexual reproduction of P. chrysogenum, the researchers have produced fungal strains with new properties that are quite relevant biotechnologically- an example of this being high penicillin production that lacks the contaminant chrysogenin.

Penicillium chrysogenum is the original source of penicillin that is still in use today, It works by creating a carbon and nitrogen ring structure called beta-lactam, which averts the bacteria from building cell walls. This antibiotic aids the microscopic fungi in eradicating any bacteria that may try to habituate the area where the fungi grows, and is what doctors have used to fight bacterial illness since the 1940s.

Regardless of the decades that P. chrysogenum was studied, it was still believed that it only reproduced sexually. The idea held due to the convoluted nature of fungal sex, which involves many different reproductive strategies. Some navigate a mating scene populated by thousands of sexes, while others clone themselves asexually. Certain types of yeast can even switch their mating type. In the fungal world, the number of sexes depends on the species.

Fungal biologist Paul Dyer from the University of Nottingham had his suspicions about the mold’s reproductive habits. A complete sequence of its genome displayed that the fungus still carried the genes necessary for sexual reproduction. “That told us that there was perhaps sexual compatibility there,” he says. Dyer joined forces with other European universities to find the ideal conditions to encourage P. chrysogenum to have sex.

In the experiment, Dyer and his colleagues paired strains with compatible mating genes and grew them with different light and food conditions. The most effective combination was found to be a biotin-supplemented nutrient medium (in this case, an oatmeal base). After five weeks in a dark, oxygen-deprived environment, special structures called ascospores and cleistothecia were produced. These formations only occur after sexual reproduction. Genetic analysis confirmed that genes had been sexually recombined.

In addition, the researchers discovered that the sex genes control the activities of biologically relevant genes-in this case the ones responsible for penicillin production. In essence, the more sexually active fungi make more penicillin, which is quite fascinating.

Interestingly enough, P. chrysogenum is not the only the only fungi recently reclassified as reluctantly sexual. Dyer’s lab group has additionally learned that Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold typically found in leaf litter and compost heaps has a sexual side to it as well.

Either way, this fungi’s increased sexuality and resulting high penicillin production could lead to more effective antibiotics. In addition to the aforementioned lack of chrysogenin in the penicillin produced, there is the rather obvious yet still seminal premise of making more penicillin more efficiently and even lead to new antibiotics. Penicillin has been life-changing and life-saving in the field of medicine, and increasing the production and efficiency will ensure that it continues to do so.

A scanning electron microscopic image of asexual conidiospores from the penicillin producer Penicillium chrysogenum.




Works Cited

Fessenden, Marissa. “The Joy of Fungal Sex: Penicillin Mold Can Reproduce Sexually, Which Could Lead to Better Antibiotics.” Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

News Staff. “Discovery: Penicillin Fungus Can Reproduce Sexually After All.” Science 2.0. Science 2.0, 08 Jan. 2014. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

“Press Release No.4.” Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Ruhr-Universität, 08 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.



Adderall. Perhaps you know someone who takes it; perhaps you take it yourself. Or maybe you are just curious, as many are, about the drug-its side effects, purposes, and place in our society.

Adderall is a phenylethylamine-class drug constituted from a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. The actual chemical parts of this drug are four active ingredients that each make up an even 25 percent portion of the drug-dextroamphetamine saccharate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, amphetamine aspartate monchydrate, and amphetamine sulfate. In addition to the active ingredients, there are a number of inactive ingredients, however the four aforementioned amphetamine-based salts above give Adderall its results. Prescriptions are given in either 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 mg doses.

This drug was actually originally primarily used as a weight-loss remedy in the 1960’s, and at the time was known as Obetrol. Obetrol was never really popular and eventually was not profitable enough to stay on the market. Thus, in 1994, Rexar Pharmaceuticals  sold the formula rights to Richwood, now known as Shire Richwood. By the time 1996 rolled around, the FDA had approved Adderall for treatment of ADHD in children. Adderall was first introduced in instant-release capsules, and later was made available in an extended-release type as well (the only difference being the amount of time in which they are released into the body).

Common side effects of the drug include:

  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Mood shifts
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness/weakness

Adderall is highly addictive and has been taken recreationally, with many adolescents taking the drug as what they think of as a “safe alternative” to cocaine, which it is clearly not. Dangerous side effects of recreational Adderall use include heart arrhythmia, psychotic episodes, respiratory complications, increased aggression, toxic shock, and even death. Many college students use the stimulant-natured drug as a study aid, so that they can stay awake longer and concentrate better, which is both hazardous and illegal. Adderall is considered a gateway drug (when used recreationally) by some psychologists, due to it affecting the same areas of the brain as methamphetamine and cocaine.

Adderall is an important drug used mainly to treat ADHD, although also as a treatment for narcolepsy. It is highly addictive and recreational usage is not recommended.


Works Cited
“Adderall: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Safety Info –” Adderall: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Safety Info –, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2015.
Geist, Jared. FOCUSING IN ON ADDERALL (2007): 3-22. 07 Dec. 2007. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.



The drug that I have chosen to place a spotlight upon is ethoxyethane, more commonly referred to as ether.  This drug intrigued me because I have always had a rather profound interest in the customs and such of the Victorian era. I remember at some point at about ten or eleven years of age reading about ether frolics. To this day, I remember what I learned, which was admittedly quite basic, and now I have researched more.  At first glance, what is seen as a rather unassuming, colorless liquid is actually quite a potent anesthetic.

Discovered in 1275, its hypnotic effects were noticed by German botanist and chemist Valerius Cordus in 1540, and its sleeping ones by Paracelsus. In 1794, ether began being used as a medical treatment. Prior to this, surgery had to be quick, yet it still caused immense physical pain and mental trauma for those brave souls who underwent it. Ether was at first mainly administered via pouring it on cloths and having the patient inhale the drug. The results were not always satisfactory and somewhat uncertain, and thus later and somewhat more successful methods involved rather complex apparatus, complete with valves, glass tubes and vessels. With these later methods, the ether was often vaporized for use.

In the 1800s, ether had a reputation for being used as a recreational drug. Starting in the 1840s, ‘ether frolics’ became a rather prevalent activity for some medical students- the ether was ingested during these parties, resulting in an emotional high, less controlled motor skills, immunity to pain, and memory loss. In fact, ether was sometimes taken instead of alcohol, since it was legal and the church did not forbid it as they did alcohol.  Ether was sold in pubs along with alcohol, as well as in shops.

A problem with ether was that doctors did not really have a way to control the amount of the drug inhaled by a patient and thus the patient could end up waking up during surgery, or having an overdose- not waking up at all. Some of the dangerous side effects of ether on humans are vomiting, nausea, breathing problems, low blood pressure, and arrhythmia. Today, ether has been replaced by other anesthetics that are less flammable, more effective, and safer.  In conclusion, this drug was a seminal one that helped medical science forge ahead and create safer and more pleasant surgeries for everyone.

Ether is administered to a patient.

Ether is administered to a patient.