Chemical and Engineering News | ‘Magic mushroom’ enzyme mystery solved
The euphoria and hallucinations induced from eating Psilocybe “magic mushrooms” have earned the fungi a cult following. Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann isolated and determined the structure of psilocybin, the main ingredient in mushrooms that leads to the psychedelic effects, nearly 60 years ago. That discovery and subsequent mind-altering experiments by Harvard University psychologist Timothy F. Leary have left scientists longing to develop a large-scale synthesis of the compound for medical uses, which include treating anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients and treating nicotine addiction. Yet no one has been able to unravel the enzymatic pathway the mushrooms use to make psilocybin, until now.
Janis Fricke, Felix Blei, and Dirk Hoffmeister of Friedrich Schiller University Jena have identified and characterized to the greatest extent so far the four enzymes that the mushrooms use to make psilocybin. The team then developed the first enzymatic synthesis of the compound, setting the stage for its possible commercial production (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201705489).