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Citrinin is a mycotoxin originally isolated from Penicillium citrinum. It has since been found to be produced by a variety of other fungi which are used in the production of human foods such as grain, cheese, sake and red pigments. It is a sometimes toxic byproduct of the fermentation process when making red yeast rice[1].


Citrinin acts as a nephrotoxin in all species in which it has been tested, but its acute toxicity varies.[2] It causes mycotoxic nephropathy in livestock and has been implicated as a cause of Balkan nephropathy and yellow rice fever in humans.

Citrinin is used as a reagent in biological research. It induces mitochondrial permeability pore opening and inhibits respiration by interfering with complex I of the respiratory chain.

Citrinin producers

Citrinin is produced by a variety of fungi including:


  1. Heston T. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Red Yeast Rice, and Sudden Cardiac Death. Internet Med J, 2012.
  2. Bennett, J. W.; Klich, M. Mycotoxins. Clinical Microbiology Reviews (2003), 16(3), 497-516.


  • E.J. Da Lozzo et al. J. Biochem. Mol. Toxicol. 1998 12 291
  • G.M. Chagas et al. J. Appl. Toxicol. 1995 15 91