Aspergillus niger is a fungus and one of the most common species of the genus Aspergillus. It causes a disease called black mold on certain fruits and vegetables such as grapes, onions, and peanuts, and is a common contaminant of food. It is ubiquitous in soil and is commonly reported from indoor environments, where its black colonies can be confused with those of Stachybotrys (species of which have also been called "black mold").
Some strains of A. niger have been reported to produce potent mycotoxins called ochratoxins, but other sources disagree, claiming the latter report is based upon misidentification of the fungal species. Genomic sequence comparisons have also led to the demonstration of another Fumonisins, another important mycotoxin Recent evidence suggests some true A. niger strains do produce ochratoxin A.
A. niger is included in Aspergillus subgenus Circumdati, section Nigri. The section Nigri includes 15 related black-spored species that may be confused with A. niger, including A. tubingensis, A. foetidus, A. carbonarius, and A. awamori. A number of morphologically similar species were recently described by Samson et al.
Many useful enzymes are produced using industrial fermentation of A. niger. For example, A. niger glucoamylase is used in the production of high fructose corn syrup, and pectinases are used in cider and wine clarification. α-galactosidase, an enzyme that breaks down certain complex sugars, is a component of Beano and other medications which the manufacturers claim can decrease flatulence. Another use for A. niger within the biotechnology industry is in the production of magnetic isotope-containing variants of biological macromolecules for NMR analysis.
Lately it has also been used as a source for vegetarian glucosamine.
A. niger is also cultured for the extraction of the enzymes glucose oxidase (GO) and Alpha-galactosidase (AGS). Glucose oxidase is used in the design of glucose biosensors, due to its high affinity for β-D-glucose. Alpha-galactosidase can be produced by A. niger fermentation; it is used to hydrolyze alpha 1-6 bonds found in melibiose, raffinose, and stachyose.
In the heydey of the opium trade, chandoo opium, which was meant to be smoked, was made by long term fermentation of A. niger and other molds on raw opium.
A. niger is the main agent in the fermentation of Pu-erh tea.
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