Degradation of Erythromycin by a Novel Fungus, Penicillium oxalicum RJJ-2, and the Degradation Pathway



This study aimed to isolate effective erythromycin-degrading fungi and determine the characteristics and pathway of degradation.


Erythromycin-degrading fungi were isolated from erythromycin-contaminated samples using a standard enrichment and isolation method. The degradation characteristics were investigated in mineral salt medium (MSM) with erythromycin as a sole carbon source. Key degradation intermediates were analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (HPLC–MS) and used to deduce the erythromycin degradation pathway of strain RJJ-2.


A novel erythromycin-degrading fungus RJJ-2, was isolated from a contaminated sample. Based on its morphology and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence, the strain was 100% similar to P. oxalicum (MN759650) and named P. oxalicum RJJ-2. The strain RJJ-2 degraded 84.88% erythromycin after 96-h incubation at 35 °C and pH 6.0 in MSM with erythromycin (100 mg L−1) as the sole carbon source. Optimal degradation conditions for P. oxalicum RJJ-2 were 35 °C, and pH 6.0 with 0.1% ammonium sulfate supplementation. HPLC–MS analysis indicated that the main degradation intermediates were 3-depyranosyloxy erythromycin A, cladinose, desosamine, and 7,12-dyhydroxy-6-deoxyerythronolide B. It was inferred that the erythromycin was degraded to 3-depyranosyloxy erythromycin A by a glycoside hydrolase in the initial reaction.


This study demonstrated that P. oxalicum RJJ-2 is a novel erythromycin-degrading strain, which can provide a new eco-friendly and cost-effective approach for the disposal of erythromycin fermentation wastes and other hazardous chemicals.

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Polymerase chain reaction


High performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry


Antibiotic fermentation wastes


Internal transcribed spacer


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This study was financially supported by Yili Chuanning Biotechnology Co., Ltd. (Grant Nos. 2019K1238 and 2019K1237); Hebei Cixin Environmental Technology Co., Ltd. China. (Grant No. 2018K0948); Shaanxi Xintiandi Grass Industry Co., Ltd. China. (Grant No. 2018K0947); Research on the Development Strategy of Bioenergy and Geothermal Energy Engineering Science and Technology for 2035 (Grant No. 2019-ZCQ-04) and Science Foundation of Changzhou University (Grant No. ZMF18020316).

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Correspondence to Chunyu Li.

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Ren, J., Wang, Z., Deng, L. et al. Degradation of Erythromycin by a Novel Fungus, Penicillium oxalicum RJJ-2, and the Degradation Pathway. Waste Biomass Valor (2021).

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  • Biodegradation
  • Degradation pathway
  • Erythromycin
  • Penicillium oxalicum