Filamentous fungi serve as production host for a number of highly relevant biotechnological products, like penicillin. In submerged culture, morphology can be exceptionally diverse and is influenced by several process parameters, like aeration, agitation, medium composition or growth rate. Fungal growth leads to several morphological classes encompassing homogeneously dispersed hyphae and various forms of hyphal agglomerates and/or clump structures. Eventually, the so-called pellet structure can be formed, which represents a hyphal agglomerate with a dense core. Pellet structures can hinder oxygen and substrate transport, resulting in different states of viability, which in turn affects productivity and process control. Over the years, several publications have dealt with methods to either gain morphological insight into pellet structure or determine biomass viability. Within this contribution, we present a way to combine both in a flow cytometry-based method employing fluorescent staining. Thereby, we can assess filamentous biomass in a statistically sound way according to (i) morphology and (ii) viability of each detected morphological form. We are confident that this method can shed light on the complex relationship between fungal morphology, viability and productivity-in both process development and routine manufacturing processes.
Keywords: Filamentous fungi; Flow cytometry; Morphology; Pellets; Penicillium chrysogenum; Viability.