Tox-Blog #5: Coprine: Don’t drink and eat those mushrooms!

in health •  last year

In this tox-blog – which is a little shorter than usual - I want to introduce you to one of my favorite poisons: coprine. I like it because the story around its toxicity is kind of funny (yes, I am that kind of guy that is amused by a poison - strictly from a professional point of view, of course...).

Young, edible Inky caps (Coprinus atramentarius). Pic source

But let’s start from the beginning: 

Coprine is found in Inky Caps (Coprinus atramentarius), edible mushrooms that grow in the temperate climate zones of Europa and North America. If you eat those mushrooms, coprin does…literally NOTHING. It is completely non-poisonous.

Until you start drinking alcohol. Then you will feel like 50% of Asian people (to understand that joke, you will have to read yesterday’s post about the Influence of a certain genetic variation on the metabolism of ethanol).

Toxic mechanism

So what happens? Upon cooking the mushrooms, Coprin dissociates into glutamic acid and 1-aminocyclopropanol, a bioactive compound that is a potent inhibitor of the ALDH enzyme. ALDH catalyzes the metabolic reaction of acetaldehyde to acetic acid, which is the second step of our detoxification reaction after drinking alcohol.

Ethanol is metabolized via a two-step reaction including two enzymes, first to acetaldehyde and second to acetic acid. Source 

If you drink alcohol and your ALDH doesn’t work properly, acetaldehyde accumulates in your body and poisons you. 

Symptoms

Acetaldehyde poisoning leads to ret hot flushes, nausea, vomiting, and severe headache. But as coprine is slowly metabolized and the ALDH regains its function, this symptoms fade after a several hours. Unless you drink enormous amounts of alcohol, you’ll feel well again the next day. I am not aware of any lethal case of coprine poisoning.

Conclusions and Prevention

If you want to eat Inky Caps (I’ve been told they are quite tasty), don’t drink anything alcoholic in a time window of approximately 4 hours before and after the meal. To guard you against an unintentional uptake, you could avoid alcohol consumption around every meal containing mushrooms. Yeah I know, this won’t happen. ;-)


 

Sources: 

Review 1
Book "Toxikologie für Naturwissenschaftler und Mediziner." Eisenbrandt, Metzler, Menneke. Wiley-VCH
Lecture "Food Toxicology II" by Prof. Marko, University of Vienna
Wiki for cross-checking less sophisticated facts
 

Disclaimer: In my blog, I'm stating my honest opinion as a researcher, not less and not more. Sometimes I make errors. Discuss  and disagree with me - if you are bringing the better arguments, I might  rethink.  

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Thanks for this post!

My husband foraged for mushrooms as a kid in Poland, and I foraged occasionally with friends in California, and we used to forage regularly where we lived in Florida. Now that we're in Tennessee, we've joined the Cumberland Mycology Society, in order to learn more about our local mushrooms, edible and otherwise.

Although I have always heard and read that inky caps are edible, I have NEVER read that they should not be taken with alcohol, so I really appreciate this post, and will make notes in our mushroom books!

Which also makes me wonder, as friends in Florida foraged a few years back, and despite carefully identifying all the mushrooms they found, wound up seriously ill after the meal. I'm guessing wine was involved, so it is entirely possible that these were among the mushrooms they foraged.

Thanks again!

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Which also makes me wonder, as friends in Florida foraged a few years back, and despite carefully identifying all the mushrooms they found, wound up seriously ill after the meal. I'm guessing wine was involved, so it is entirely possible that these were among the mushrooms they foraged.

That might definatly be a possibility. But he/she recovered well?

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Yeah, last I heard they were all still alive and kicking, so since this was several years back, they survived.

Coprine poisoning ain't no joke - and the particularly upsetting thing is that often the poisoning comes after some forager impresses his or her friends with their foraged meal, make a delicious mushroom dish, and they all celebrate over a glass of wine. The night really takes off from there :(

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oh, I hope it didn't sound like I thought it was a joke. It isn't, you're absolutly right.

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Haha, no no - I meant that sardonically - you dealt with the subject matter totally appropriately! Well sardonic toward the poison - not toward the post. It was just a grim reiteration of how unpleasant being poisoned is.

Nice post, hopefully it will not give any ideas to people who like to try new stuff ;)

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haha. Ok, or everyone considering this: it would be like getting drunk without the fun and only the bad symptoms of hangover. ;-)

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

- Winston Churchill

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