What is Rhizopus?

Rhizopus is a fungus genus that includes both saprophytic and parasitic species. They prefer moist or humid environments. They can be found on organic foods such as vegetables, fruits, bread, jellies, and other jams. Coenocytic (multinucleated) and branched hyphae make up the vegetative structure. They're utilised to make a variety of chemicals and alcoholic beverages. Some rhizopus species cause plant diseases and can also infect humans, causing mucormycosis.

It is the genus of common saprophytic fungi, which grows on plants and specialised parasites on plants. They have the ability to grow on wide organic substances including fruits and vegetables, bread, leather, etc. They are multicellular in nature and some rhizopus causes fungal infection and they cause fatal disease. They grow in filamentous, branching hyphae that generally lack cross-walls, i.e, they are coenocytic. They reproduce by spore formation both by asexual and sexual mode of reproduction as sporangiospores are produced inside a spherical structure, the sporangium. Sporangia are supported by a large apophysis atop a long stalk, the sporangiophore. In sexual reproduction, a dark zygospore is produced at the point where two compatible mycelia fuse. After germination, zygospores produced colonies that are genetically different from their parents.

Classification of Rhizopus

Kingdom: Fungi

Phylum: Zygomycota

Order: Mucorales

Family: Mucoraceae

Genus: Rhizopus

Features of Rhizopus

  1. They have a branching body known as mycelia.

  2. The majority of rhizopus are saprobic in nature i.e decomposer.

  3. They mainly feed on dead organic matter or organisms.

  4. They reproduce by spore formation.

  5. They are used for industrial purposes like in the making of biotin, alcoholic beverages, etc.

Morphological Features of Rhizopus

  1. They are dark greyish-brown in colour.

  2. The size of rhizoids is 10mm high.

  3. Sporangia are 100 micrometre in diameter.

Structure of Rhizopus

  1.  Mostly they are fast growing in nature and mainly have a cottony appearance.

  2. The Body of a rhizopus contains branched mycelium and they are coenocytic in nature. They also consist of branched mycelium and mycelium is coenocytic in nature and composed of three types of hyphae:, stolon, rhizoids, and sporangiophores. 

  3. Stolon is present in the internodal region, it is aerial, forms an arch, and touches the substratum forming nodal region.

  4. Rhizoids are formed where the stolon touches the substratum at nodes. They have branching, anchor the mycelium to the substratum, and also absorb food.

  5. Apart from this, there is a reproductive hyphae consisting of sporangiophores which grows vertically from stolon. They are unbranched, elongated, columellate and they also give rise to a reproductive structure known as sporangiospores. Given below are the different parts of hyphae:

  1. Cell-Wall: Cell wall is composed of chitin, chitosan, lipids, proteins, etc. 

  2. Protoplasm: Protoplasm consists of nuclei, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and various other cytoplasmic inclusions like ribosomes, oil droplets, etc.

  3. Columella: It mainly arises from u-shaped sporangiophore and they are mainly hygroscopic in nature and their main function is the absorption of water.

  4. Sporangium: It acts as a connecting link between columella and sporangiophore. They are mainly spherical or globose in shape. They also carry a reproductive structure known as sporangiospores.

  5. Sporangiospores: They are known to be asexual spores and mainly unicellular in nature.

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Common Example of Rhizopus

Some common examples of rhizopus species are:

  1. Rhizopus Arrhizus: They help in the production of alcoholic beverages.

  2. Rhizopus Zygospores: they are used to make tempeh. 

  3. Rhizopus Microsporus: It is used to ferment soybean products.

  4. Rhizopus Stolonifer: It is also known as black bread mould. They are also used in the production of chemicals, e.g., cortisone, fumaric acid, etc. Causes fruit rot disease.

Life Cycle of Rhizopus

Rhizopus reproduces by three methods. They are vegetative, asxeaul, and sexual mode.

1. Vegetative Reproduction

Under this mode of reproduction, small fragments are formed on the body surface of rhizopus and due to accidental breakage, the stolon may break up into two or more than two small units and each unit or part is capable of growing as a mother mycelium.

2. Asexual Mode of Reproduction

It takes place in two ways either by the formation of sporangiospore or by the formation of chlamydospore.

A. By Sporangiospore Formation

Under favourable conditions, non-motile spores such as sporangiospores are formed inside the sporangium. Sporangium starts developing singly at the apex of sporangiophore and they further develop into tufts from the upper side of the node opposite to rhizoidal hyphae. These hyphae continue to grow up to a certain height. Their nuclei and cytoplasm moved towards the apical region due to this enlargement in hyphae taking place and this enlarged part is known as sporangium. With time, the protoplast of sporangium is differentiated into a thick dense layer of multinucleated cytoplasm and this differentiation occurs towards the peripheral region and this wall is called as sporoplasm and the remaining vacuolated portion with few nuclei towards the centre is known as columella plasm. After this, a series of vacuoles appear between sporoplasm and columella plasm and these vacuoles become flattened and form a cleavage cavity. This leads to the development of septum and they become dome shaped and force their way into the sporangium. After the maturation process, the wall of sporangium dries and collapses to form a cup-shaped irregular surface. This sporangial wall gets raptured into different fragments leaving a small portion as a collar on the sporangiophore. The powdery remains of spores are scattered in the atmosphere.

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B. Chlamydospores

This type of axeual reproduction occurs by formation of zoospores, aplanospores, hypnospores, or a palmella stage. During unfavourable conditions like lack of food material and water, the protoplasm gets surrounded by thick and nutrient-rich walls. Then, this chlamydospore gets detached from vegetative hyphae and they remain in the resting phase and when this chlamydomonas gets enough moisture, they undergo the formation of germ tube which leads to the formation of the new thallus.

3. Sexual Mode of Reproduction

    Sexual mode of reproduction in rhizopus occurs in various steps, they are as follows:

  1. Under this, positive and negative thallus comes in contact with each other.

  2. After coming in contact, conjugation between male and female thalli occurs by the means of the outgrowth of positive and negative thalli.

  3. Due to this, conjugation septum is developed between progametangia and plasmogamy. This leads to the formation of coenogametes.

  4. Due to the conjugation process of gametes, karyogamy occurs which leads to the formation of zygote

  5. Further zygote undergoes maturation process and gets surrounded by thick-walled structure zygospore, which covers both outer as well as inner layer.

  6. For some time, zygospores undergo a resting phase and under favourable condition, zygospore forms a germ tube and germinates into a new vegetative body.

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FAQs on Rhizopus

1. What is Rhizopus?

Rhizopus is a genus of saprophytic fungus that live on plants and specialised parasitic fungi that live on mammals. They're in everything from mature fruits and vegetables to jellies, syrups, leather, bread, peanuts, and tobacco. They have many cells. Some species of rhizopus are opportunistic human pathogens that commonly cause the deadly disease zygomycosis.

Rhizopus species are filamentous branched hyphae, most often without flanks (i.e., polynuclear). They reproduce through spores, both asexual and sexual. Asexual reproduction produces sporangiospores inside a spherical structure called a sporangium. A huge apophysate columella atop a long stalk, the sporangiophore, supports sporangia. When two suitable mycelia unite in sexual reproduction, a dark zygospore is generated. When a zygospore germinates, it creates colonies that are genetically distinct from either parent.

2. What is taxonomy and phylogeny rhizopus?

Taxonomy and phylogeny rhizopus are kinds of the same. The phylum Zygomycota includes the genus Rhizopus, which has the same common name as the phylum in which it is found, Zygomycota. The Zygomycota belong to the Kingdom Fungi, which is defined by a filamentous structure, the presence of cell walls made of the polysaccharide chitin, and the absence of cross-walls (i.e., it is coenocytic). The Kingdom Fungi and the Zygomycota phylum are regarded to represent a good phylogenetic unit based on molecular data.

3. What is the structure of rhizopus?

Rhizopus, like most fungus, is made up of filaments (hyphae) that branch into a feeding structure called a mycelium. The filaments of all bread moulds, including rhizopus, are coenocytic, meaning that they contain numerous (haploid) nuclei that are not partitioned into discrete compartments (cells). The hyphae spread out from the tip, expanding the filaments and producing additional nuclei.

The rhizopus mycelium begins by 'mining' its substrate, obtaining sustenance from whatever it is growing on. It then creates three unique coenocytic structures:

(1) Vertically oriented sporangiophores with a spherical structure at the tip that produces a large number of asexual spores.

(2) Root-like 'rhizoids' beneath the sporangiophores. They embed themselves in the substrate and allow sporangiophores to develop upward. 

(3) Horizontally running 'stolons' that spread the fungus laterally and produce sporangiophores and rhizoids where they adhere to the substrate. Cell walls grow around individual nuclei only within the spore-producing structure, resulting in uninucleate cells that mature into spores and are distributed.

4. How does Rhizopus interact?

Bread moulds, such as rhizopus, are significant heterotrophs that consume a lot of organic material and provide nutrients that autotrophs can absorb. Bread moulds, especially various rhizopus species, can occasionally cause plant and animal diseases. Rhizopus is employed in industry to carry out various essential chemical conversions, such as the conversion of plant steroids into particular compounds like cortisone and the manufacture of fumaric acid from sugar because it is relatively easy to culture. Rhizopus is also used to make tempeh, which is a soybean 'curd' food made from crushed soybeans that have been partially degraded by rhizopus and kept together by fungal hyphae.

5. Where does Rhizopus stolonifer prefers to live in a variety of environments?

Rhizopus stolonifer is saprophytic, meaning that it feeds on dead organic debris. It is also termed parasitic since it consumes all nutrients from the substrate it comes into contact with and provides nothing back.

Rhizopus stolonifer spores are abundant and frequent in the air, giving the mould the capacity to swiftly develop on any surface where it can find sustenance. Sugar and starch are essential for rhizopus stolonifer, which it obtains from food like bread and soft fruits. This mould uses the food supply it consumes for growth, nutrition, and reproduction.