All aspects of cultivating fungi together with products and processes derived from such cultures. Fungi exhibit a wide range of biosynthetic and biodegradative activities. Since fungi can bring about chemical change in almost any natural or synthetic organic molecule, many species have been selected and propagated in pure culture specifically for applications in biotechnology and industry, for example in food and beverage production.
While the fermentation industry remains the largest and economically most important user of fungal cultures, fungi are also utilized by the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, chemical, agricultural, food, enzyme, wood product, and waste treatment industries. In the United States, two prominent examples of fungal products are citric acid, with an annual production of 350,000 tons (160,000 kg), and beta-lactam antibiotics. Yeasts are the most commercially exploited microorganisms. They have been used extensively in baking, brewing, winemaking, and distilling, and in making various metabolic products. Several million tons of fresh yeast are produced each year, mostly for the baking industry. See Fermentation
Because they are capable of secreting large quantities of certain proteins in liquid culture, fungi have proven to be useful as cloning hosts for the production of recombinant proteins of fungal and human origin. Technologies have been developed to scale up the production of new or novel products. Aspergillus nidulans has been designed to produce many human therapeutic proteins, including growth factors and protein hormones. The yeasts Sac. cerevisiae and P. pastoris have been utilized for the expression of human interferon and serum albumin. Yeast chromosomes are also being employed in the mapping of the human genome. See Genetic engineering
Manufactured products which contain living fungi and are used to control pests are called mycopesticides. They are utilized to control weeds, harmful insects, nematodes (roundworms), or even other fungi. Although formerly confined to experimental settings, mycopesticides are increasingly available as commercial products, especially for the agricultural market. They may impact pest populations through direct parasitism, secretion of antibiotics, competition for nutrients, or a combination of these effects, and may be used alone or in combination with chemical pesticides.