Most terverticillate penicillia isolated from dry-cured meat products are toxigenic, but their ability to produce hazardous metabolites on meat-based substrates is not well known. The production of extrolites by selected terverticillate penicillia isolated from dry-cured ham has been studied on carbohydrate-rich media (malt extract agar, Czapek yeast autolysate agar, rice extract agar, and rice), meat extract triolein salt agar, and ham slices. Chloroform extracts from the selected strains grown on malt extract agar were toxic for the brine shrimp (Artemia salina) larvae and VERO cells at a concentration of 2 mg/ml, but 0.02 mg/ml produced no toxic effect. Analysis by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with photodiode array detection (DAD) or with mass spectrometry (MS) and an atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) source revealed different biologically active metabolites: cyclopiazonic acid and rugulovasine A from Penicillium commune; verrucosidin, anacine, puberuline, verrucofortine, and viridicatols from Penicillium polonicum; arisugacin and viridicatols from Penicillium echinulatum; and compactin and viridicatols from Penicillium solitum. Most of these metabolites, including the amino acid–derived compounds, were produced in the media containing high levels of carbohydrates. High concentrations of nitrogen compounds in the medium does not imply a greater production of the metabolites studied, not even those derived from the amino acids. However, molds growing on dry-cured ham are able to synthesize limited amounts of some secondary metabolites, a fact not previously reported. The combination of HPLC coupled with DAD and MS-APCI was useful for identification of closely related terverticillate Penicillium species from dry-cured ham. These techniques could be used to characterize the risk associated with the potential production of secondary metabolites in cured meats.

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Author notes

Present address: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 8301 Muirkirk Road, Laurel, MD 20708, USA.