Volume 10 Part 2 Article 68: New Aspects of the Toxicity of False Morel

Volume 10 Part 2 Article 68
Year 1979
Title: New Aspects of the Toxicity of False Morel
Authors: A. Niskanen and A.V. Wright


False morel, Gyromitra esculenta (Pers.) Fr., although commonly used as an edible mushroom in both Europe and North-America, has caused numerous fatal food poisoning cases (Franke et al., 1967; Mlodecki et al., 1962; Cottingham, 1955). Toxic effects have also been detected in workers chronically sensitized to mushroom vapours in food processing plants (Bringhurst et al., 1959).

The toxicity of false morel was thought to be caused by so called “helvellic acid” until List and Luft (1967) proved that it results from acetaldehyde-N- methyl-N-formylhydrazone, ethylidene gyromitrin (EG). Several other N-methyl-N-formylhydrazones (MFH) have been identified in false morel, though in minor quantities compared to ethylidene gyromitrin (Pyysalo and Niskanen, 1977).

Gray (1972) postulated that ethylidene gyromitrin is metabolized to methylhydrazine (MH) (figure 1). This widely used chemical is highly toxic (Witkin, 1956) andalsocarsinogenic (Toth and Shimizu, 1973). Recently Nagel et al. (1977) have detected traces of methylhydrazine in the stomachs of mice treated orally with ethylidene gyromitrin.

In Finland promising results in the artificial cultivation of false morel have again opened the question of the possible industrial use for this mushroom. The aim of the series of studies reported here was to evaluate in more detail the toxicological risks of gyromitrins, in particular the formation of carcinogenic and mutagenic metabolites.

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