Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin produced by several species of Aspergillus
fungi that structurally consists of a para-chlorophenolic group containing a dihydroisocoumarin moiety that is amide-linked to L-phenylalanine. OTA is detected worldwide in various food and feed sources. Studies show that this molecule can have several toxicological effects such as nephrotoxic, hepatotoxic, neurotoxic, teratogenic and immunotoxic. A role in the etiology of Balkan endemic nephropathy and its association to urinary tract tumors has been also proved. In this review, we will explore the general aspect of OTA: physico-chemical properties, toxicological profile, OTA producing fungi, contaminated food, regulation, legislation and analytical methods. Due to lack of sufficient information related to the molecular background, this paper will discuss in detail the recent advances in molecular biology of OTA biosynthesis, based on information and on new data about identification and characterization of ochratoxin biosynthetic genes in both Penicillium
species. This review will also cover the development of the molecular methods for the detection and quantification of OTA producing fungi in various foodstuffs.