The genus Mortierella is the largest genus of zygomycetous fungi with about 100 recognized species. Most infections with Mortierella were reported in animals rather than humans.

M. wolfii is a known animal pathogen associated with bovine mycotic abortion followed by acute pneumonia in cattle in New Zealand. Infection with this fungus is apparently uncommon in cattle elsewhere, with only one case reported in Canada.5

M. bainieri and M. reticulata species cause shaggy stipe disease in commercial mushroom crops, although these are considered to be weed mold rather than pathogens. The stalk and cap are usually discolored, becoming dark brown as the disease progresses. The coarse gray mycelium is commonly seen growing over the affected mushroom tissue and also over the surrounding casing resembling a cobweb. The cap may also develop a brown blotch, often surrounded by a yellow ring.3

With fungi being considered as emerging source of antibiotics, defensin-like peptides (fDLPs) are emerging as attractive anti-infective agents due to their therapeutic efficacy, low toxicity and high serum stability. Three peptides have been classified as ancient invertebrate-type defensins with significant therapeutic potential. For example, plectasin (NZ2114) from Mortierella alpine shows superior to two conventional antibiotics (vancomycin and daptomycin) in inhibiting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) with even more enhanced serum stability.6

Several species of Mortierella have been used in industrial applications that involve the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acids, known components of lipid membranes, neuroprotectors and heart protectors. One of the most efficient producer of arachidonic acid is M. alpina which is considered safe for the production of food ingredients.2 Arachidonic acid is an ingredient of infant formulas to supply essential metabolic precursors for prenatal nervous system development.

M. signyensis and M. alpina environmentally robust organisms have shown potential value when developed as insect pest controls. Both species cause significant mortality of waxmoth and housefly larvae via injection and soil inoculation, and M. alpina causes significant mortality of housefly larvae via baiting.


  1. Molecular Detection of Human Fungal Pathogens. Dongyou Liu
  2. Industrial Applications. Heinz Osiewacz
  3. Mushroom Pest and Disease Control: A Color Handbook. J. T. Fletcher, R. H. Gaze
  4. Investigating the insecticidal potential of Geomyces (Myxotrichaceae: Helotiales) and Mortierella (Mortierellacea: Mortierellales) isolated from Antarctica
  5. Systemic infection with Mortierella wolfii following abortion in a cow
  6. The Fungal Defensin Family Enlarged



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