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Medical-Grade Psychotropic May Be Feasible Thanks to New Genomics Study

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Image from Alan Rockefeller

A recent paper in the journal Angewandte Chemie describes using SMRT Sequencing to characterize biosynthesis of a psychotropic product in Psilocybe carpophores, better known as magic mushrooms. Scientists from the Hans Knöll Institute in Germany report that the work could pave the way to synthetic production for pharmaceutical use.

Enzymatic Synthesis of Psilocybin” comes from Janis Fricke, Felix Blei, and Dirk Hoffmeister. The team aimed to uncover the enzymatic mechanisms of biosynthesis for psilocybin, culminating in the characterization of four related enzymes: PsiD, PsiK, PsiM, and PsiH. “In a combined PsiD/PsiK/PsiM reaction, psilocybin was synthesized enzymatically in a step-economic route from 4-hydroxy-l-tryptophan,” the authors write.

Scientists used PacBio sequencing to analyze Psilocybe cyanescens, resulting in a 61.3 Mb assembly with just 217 contigs (meanwhile, a short-read assembly of a closely related mushroom for the same project required more than 2,900 contigs to represent just 41.3 Mb). After identifying the genes involved in producing psilocybin, the team validated the work by splicing them into E. coli and confirming the biosynthesis event.

Since its structure was first characterized in 1959, scientists have been seeking ways to synthesize psilocybin — but without success. As the study authors note, their new results finally “may lay the foundation for its biotechnological production.”

In an article from Chemical & Engineering News, the University of Minnesota’s Courtney Aldrich said the discovery will be important “for developing a fermentation process for production of this powerful psychedelic fungal drug.”

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