Citizen Science Alert - Gyromitrin Mycotoxin

False morels (Gyromitra spp.) are often vilified for their passing similarity to the much more celebrated true morels (Morchella spp.) and the fact that some species are known to contain the mycotoxin gyromitrin. However, no study has systematically determined the presence of gyromitrin in North American ascomycetes. With your help, I am hoping to crowdsource Gyromitra specimens and related mushrooms from across the continent. These data will facilitate research into the evolutionary origin and phylogenetic distribution of this mycotoxin. Specifically, they will serve as the foundation for comparative genomics to characterize the gyromitrin biosynthesis gene cluster and test for horizontal gene transfer across Kingdom Fungi. A detailed understanding of gyromitrin distribution, both in terms of taxonomy and geography, will also aid in the formulation of best foraging practices for mushroom hunters.

While Gyromitra is best known for containing gyromitrin, we'd like to test mushrooms from sister families as well to try to piece together its evolutionary history. According to Ekanayaka et al. (2018), these families and their genera are:

Please preserve a representative specimen in a ziploc bag in your freezer as soon as possible to prevent excessive loss of gyromitrin. In addition, if you collected multiple specimens, please try to get a spore print and dry the remaining material. A spore print of a mushroom like a morel can be obtained in the same manner as a spore print of a gilled mushroom. Please use aluminum foil for the spore print substrate, if available. Include information on the date and location of collection, or the iNaturalist or Mushroom Observer accession number, with any collection.

A note on drying: gyromitrin can be poisonous via inhalation. While people collect, process, cook, and eat some Gyromitra species with no apparent harm, it makes sense (and I'd even encourage) for one to be cautious when handling these mushrooms, especially Gyromitra esculenta. Unless you are already in the practice of consuming Gyromitra, I'd recommend using a dehydrator that is not used for foodstuff. If that is not available, you can simply place them in a well-ventilated location out of direct sun so that they air dry. In all cases, mushrooms should always be dehydrated at low temperatures (~100 ˚F or less) to avoid "cooking" the tissues.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, I cannot access our research facilities and do not know when I will be ready to receive your specimens, but I do not want to miss out on spring 2020 mushrooms. If you notify me when you make a collection, I will add you to my list and let you know when I have access to our research facilities and am ready to receive your specimens. At that time, you will be able to send them to the following address:

Alden Dirks, 4050 Biological Sciences Building, 1105 N. University Ave, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Thank you very much for any help you can offer,

Alden Dirks
aldendirks.com

Posted by aldendirks aldendirks, April 13, 2020 04:39

Comments

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I will gladly collect for you. I’m probably hunting in the Mt. Hood area of the Cascade Mountains due to the pandemic I won’t go much farther away than that this year.

Posted by eileenbela 3 months ago (Flag)
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@eileenbela Thanks so much!

Posted by aldendirks 3 months ago (Flag)
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I went out today and collected for you today. I will upload the photos of what I collected and that will give you location data. I haven't done id on them yet but they are all Ascomyctes including Gyromitra montana and Gyromytria esculents. They are in the freezer now.

Posted by eileenbela 3 months ago (Flag)
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I collected a nice G. korfii for you today in Holly, MI.

Posted by dianemushroom 3 months ago (Flag)
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@eileenbela @dianemushroom thanks so much you two!!

Posted by aldendirks 3 months ago (Flag)
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I posted photos of my ascomycete collections today. they are in the freezer and/or being spore printed.

Posted by eileenbela 3 months ago (Flag)
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I collected some Gyromitra montana from southern Oregon near the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. It seems best to dry (with a spore print if possible) rather than the freezer? What is your latest recommendation? Or would you like some frozen-- if so how then would they be posted to you. I'll keep an eye out for the other taxa too. And hope the shut down eases soon. Thanks for doing this interesting study.

Posted by jonaleef 3 months ago (Flag)
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@jonaleef Great, thanks!!

The instructions above still stand. If you collected multiple specimens, it would be greatly appreciated if you could freeze some (for gyromitrin analysis), and get a spore print and dry the rest. They'd all be posted at the same time. The frozen ones will thaw, but the few days being thawed will likely result in less gyromitrin los than being dried. The dried ones will be used for DNA sequencing and the spore print will be used to grow the fungus in culture.

Me too!

Cheers,
Alden

Posted by aldendirks 3 months ago (Flag)
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Fascinating study! I have no feeling for how fast the gyromitrin escapes the fungi; we get the most interesting of these (G. californica) in the high country and tradition of stopping for deep fried chicken and a beer on the way home means a long time before getting to a freezer. Would a person be better to place these in a ziplock sealed bag in the field and transferring to freezer later?
How will you determine how much gas has escaped? Good luck!
Steve

Posted by natvik 2 months ago (Flag)

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