Biological function of hallucinogens in fungi ?

Richard Winder rwinder at PFC.Forestry.CA
Fri Jan 26 14:00:08 EST 1996

In article <4e1njs$2eja at>, 
VPGH51A at (Jim Berlstein) writes:
>Re: function of hallucinogen in mushroom-
>Jim's Chemical warfare theory
>I believe the function of fungal toxins is for the poisoning of one's 
>mycological neighbors, and generally occurs mostly in fruiting, when the 
>nitrogen is low, so the resourse is worth the cost of producing these 
>chemical weapons.

I agree, but I wouldn't limit it to acting on other fungi.  We know that 
secondary compounds in plants can provide defenses against a wide variety of 
organisms, including insects, etc.  Many mushrooms seem only to produce 
characteristic secondary compounds in the fruiting body (for example, the 
almond smell of Agaricus augustus is not present in mycelial cultures, at 
least in our lab). These compounds probably act on fruiting body feeders 
and parasites, and not just on antagonists of underground mycelial
growth.  Some probably do defend against other fungi (why, for example, does 
Hypomyces love to attack some mushrooms, but not others?).  I think insects 
and nematodes would be considerably important targets for these compounds, 
however, either in terms of repelling them to preserve the fruiting body's 
ability to produce and disseminate spores, or attracting them so that they 
act as vectors for spore distribution.  Secondary compounds in mushrooms are 
potentially capable of doing a lot of different things in terms of ecological
interactions, if the plant kingdom serves as any indication.  -RSW

  RICHARD WINDER                    Title: Research Scientist
  Canadian Forest Service           Phone: (604) 363-0773
  Victoria, B.C.                    Internet: RWINDER at A1.PFC.Forestry.CA

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