citrinin toxin

Citrinin is one of the most common mycotoxins generally formed after harvest and occurs mainly in stored grains, beans, fruits, fruit and vegetable juices, herbs and spices, and also in spoiled dairy products. Citrinin is known to occur also as an undesirable contaminant in Monascus fermentation products (generally described as red mould rice), which have been used in Asia for centuries for meat preservation and food colouring. The production of citrinin by P. citrinum gained wide attention because of its involvement in the ‘yellow rice’ syndrome; it was frequently found in copious quantities, producing its yellow mycotoxins.


Citrinin is a secondary metabolite, produced mainly by Penicillium and Aspergillus species. Among the citrinin-producing penicillia we find P. citrinum, P. viridicatum, P. expansum, P. lividum, P. fellutanum, P. implicatum, P. jensenii, P. canescens, P. purpurescens, P. roqueforti, P. thomii, P. Verrucosum.  

Citrinin can permeate through the human skin. Although no significant health risk is expected after dermal contact in agricultural or residential environments, dermal exposure should nevertheless be limited. It often co-occurs with ochratoxin A and has been implicated in mycotoxic nephropathy of pigs in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Ireland and in avian nephropathies. It has been suggested that citrinin may be implicated in the fatal human kidney disease, Balkan Endemic Nephropathy, along with other mycotoxins including ochratoxin A and further unidentified toxins.

Citrinin is a strong nephrotoxin?, exhibited teratogenic? effects and has also been shown to be embryotoxic? and genotoxic?. Citrinin can be ingested by animals and humans and causes chronic diseases. Citrinin has certain phytotoxic? properties. The renal system of humans was found to be affected and the mitochondrial respiratory chain was identified as a possible sensitive target for this mycotoxins.

Chemical properties and toxicology

citrinin mycotoxin

Citrinin (C13H14O5)  is a yellow  phenol derivate which is also yellow in its crystalline pure form. It is soluble in water but soluble in dilute sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate or sodium acetate, in methanol, acetonitrile, ethanol and most other polar organic solvents. Citrinin is an unstable compound and the major products that resulted from the breakdown of citrinin are dihydrocitrinone and ochratoxin A.