What can spores do for us?

W.A.M. Wolken, J. Tramper, M.J. van der Werf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Many organisms have the ability to form spores, a remarkable phase in their life cycles. Compared with vegetative cells, spores have several advantages (e.g. resistance to toxic compounds, temperature, desiccation and radiation) making them well suited to various applications. The applications of spores that first spring to mind are bio-warfare and the related, but more positive, field of biological control. Although they are often considered metabolically inert, spores can also be used as biocatalysts. Other uses for spores are found in the fields of probiotics, tumour detection and treatment, biosensing and in the ‘war against drugs’. Spores are a remarkable phase in the life cycle of a range of organisms (ferns, worts, algae, fungi, bacteria and protozoa). It is impossible to give an unambiguous definition of spores because they are diverse in origin and morphology (Box 1), and they vary greatly in size and shape (Fig. 1). The smallest spores are the bacterial endospores, which can be as small as 0.25 (µm in diameter [1]. The largest microbial spores are the fungal ascospores, some of which are nearly visible with the naked eye (e.g. the two-celled ascospore of Varicellaria microsticta can be as large as 340 by 115 µm) [2]. Generally, microbial spores have a diameter in the range of 1 to 50 µm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-345
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • non-germinating spores
  • microbial transformation
  • coniothyrium-minitans
  • penicillium-digitatum
  • fungal spores
  • biotransformation
  • steroids
  • conidia
  • microorganisms
  • progesterone

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