Do Poisonous Mushrooms Have a Pharmaceutical Purpose?


Poisonous mushrooms may hold the key to more efficiently treating diseases, findings from a recent study report.

Poisonous mushrooms may hold the key to more efficiently treating diseases, findings from a recent study report. Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) discovered the potential of 2 species of mushrooms to theoretically produce billions of compounds through 1 molecular assembly line. For the study, the study team focused on the “Death Cap,” which can be found on the West Coast and Europe, and the “Destroying Angel,” which grows in Michigan.

The scientists genetically sequenced the 2 Amanita mushrooms, a project that has been revamped and completed since a previous partial DNA sequence was done 10 years ago. The data, published in BMC Genomics, hone in on the genes responsible for producing the mushrooms’ harmful poisons, revealing cyclic peptides as the culprit.

However, only a select few of these peptides are poisonous to humans, which presents an opportunity to use the rest of the mushroom molecules for medicine. The ability for cyclic peptides to enter the human bloodstream and precisely target cells offers potential medicinal purposes that can lead to new medicines. Additionally, the researchers noted that mushrooms can synthesize more cyclic peptides than previously thought through 1 molecular platform, demonstrating the possibility for more effective and efficient means of developing targeted treatments.

“Yet, many cyclic peptides are already known to be important drugs against tuberculosis, drug-resistant Staphylococcus, and cancer,” Jonathan Walton, professor at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory and co-lead author, said in a news release. “By harnessing the Amanita system, we can imagine a less crude and potentially more effective way to synthesize a large pool of new compounds, which we can test for potential pharmaceutical purposes.”


Sequencing Poisonous Mushrooms May Lead to New Medicines [news release]. Michigan. MSU’s website. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.

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