Polyol production has been studied in Aspergillus niger under different conditions. Fermentations have been run using high concentration of glucose or xylose as carbon source and ammonium or nitrate as nitrogen source. The growth of biomass, as freely dispersed hyphae, led to an increase of medium viscosity and hereby a decrease in mass transfer, especially oxygen transfer. The consequence was a decrease in DOT and the occurrence of a switch between fully aerobic conditions and oxygen-limited conditions. Metabolite quantification showed that polyols were the main metabolic products formed and represented up to 22% of the carbon consumed in oxygen-limited conditions. The polyol concentration and the polyol pattern depended strongly on the environmental conditions. This is due to a complex regulation of polyol production and to the fact that each polyol can fulfill different functions. In this study, erythritol, xylitol, and arabitol were produced as carbon storage compounds when the flux through the PP pathway exceeded the need in ribulose-5-phosphate for the biomass synthesis. Glycerol, erythritol, and xylitol seem to be involved in osmoregulation. Mannitol was produced when the catabolic reduction of charge was high. Its production involves the enzyme NAD-dependent mannitol-1-phosphate dehydrogenase and seems to be the main cytosolic route for the NADH reoxidation during oxygen limitation. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.