Heterogeneity in spores of food spoilage fungi

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At the moment, a significant part of food spoilage and food waste can be attributed to fungal contamination and spoilage. Fungal food spoilage can be found in all food categories and not only affects visual and organoleptic properties of food but can also result in the production of toxins. Food preservation methods like sterilization and salt addition reduce spoilage enormously. However, consumers prefer minimal processing of food to maintain taste and nutritional composition, which leads to increased risk of fungal spoilage. Therefore, new food processing protocols are needed.

Fungal food spoilage often starts with a contamination with spores. These reproductive structures are abundant in the environment. Experimental data strongly indicate the existence of subpopulations of spores with different levels of resistance to preservation methods. The aim of this project is to study the extent of this heterogeneity and to study the underyling mechanisms using fungal model systems. The role of the genetic background (differences in strains), environmental conditions (differences in growth conditions), and the developmental state of the mycelium and the spores will be studied, using quantitative imaging, genome and RNA sequencing as well as functional gene analysis. This project intends to reveal the required knowledgebase for the design of novel mild intervention protocols to prevent fungal food spoilage.