Identification and toxigenic potential of the industrially important fungi, Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus sojae

J Food Prot. 2007 Dec;70(12):2916-34. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-70.12.2916.


Mold strains belonging to the species Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus sojae are highly valued as koji molds in the traditional preparation of fermented foods, such as miso, sake, and shoyu, and as protein production hosts in modern industrial processes. A. oryzae and A. sojae are relatives of the wild molds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. All four species are classified to the A. flavus group. Strains of the A. flavus group are characterized by a high degree of morphological similarity. Koji mold species are generally perceived of as being nontoxigenic, whereas wild molds are associated with the carcinogenic aflatoxins. Thus, reliable identification of individual strains is very important for application purposes. This review considers the pheno- and genotypic markers used in the classification of A. flavus group strains and specifically in the identification of A. oryzae and A. sojae strains. Separation of A. oryzae and A. sojae from A. flavus and A. parasiticus, respectively, is inconsistent, and both morphologic and molecular evidence support conspecificity. The high degree of identity is reflected by the divergent identification of reference cultures maintained in culture collections. As close relatives of aflatoxin-producing wild molds, koji molds possess an aflatoxin gene homolog cluster. Some strains identified as A. oryzae and A. sojae have been implicated in aflatoxin production. Identification of a strain as A. oryzae or A. sojae is no guarantee of its inability to produce aflatoxins or other toxic metabolites. Toxigenic potential must be determined specifically for individual strains. The species taxa, A. oryzae and A. sojae, are currently conserved by societal issues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxins / genetics
  • Aflatoxins / metabolism*
  • Aspergillus flavus / classification*
  • Aspergillus flavus / genetics*
  • Aspergillus oryzae / classification
  • Aspergillus oryzae / genetics
  • DNA, Fungal / chemistry
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Fermentation
  • Food Microbiology
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Industrial Microbiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Technique
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology
  • Species Specificity


  • Aflatoxins
  • DNA, Fungal
  • Fungal Proteins