Historical microbial collections often contain samples that have been deposited over extended time periods, during which accepted taxonomic classification (and also available methods for taxonomic assignment) may have changed considerably. Deposited samples can, therefore, have historical taxonomic assignments (HTAs) that may now be in need of revision, and subdivisions of previously-accepted taxa may also be possible with the aid of current methodologies. One such methodology is matrix-assisted laser-desorption and ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). Motivated by the high discriminating power of MALDI-TOF MS coupled with the speed and low cost of the method, we have investigated the use of MALDI-TOF MS for spectral grouping of past deposits made to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) Genetic Resource Collection under the HTA Aspergillus versicolor, a common ascomycete fungus frequently associated with soil and plant material, food spoilage, and damp indoor environments. Despite their common HTA, the 40 deposits analyzed in this study fall into six clear spectral-linkage groups (containing nine, four, four, four, four, and two members, respectively), along with a group of ten spectrally-unique samples. This study demonstrates the clear resolving power of MALDI-TOF MS when applied to samples deposited in historical microbial collections.
Keywords: Aspergillus versicolor; historical microbial collections; historical taxonomic assignment; spectral grouping; subspecies discrimination.