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Gymnopilus junonius by José María Barrasa
Gymnopilus junonius by José María Barrasa

Gymnopilus junonius (FR.) P.D. Orton (=Gymnopilus spectabilis sensu auct.) is a fungus commonly known as “Laughing Gym” or “Laughing Cap”. Several subspecies of this mushroom (specially distributed by Asia) have been reported to contain the hallucinogen substance psilocybin and other types of oligoisoprenoid neurotoxins (Tanaka et al., 1993). This is a saprobic white-rot decay species of the order Agaricales that usually fruit in clusters (rarely alone) on wood of deciduous and conifer trees from spring to autumn. It is widely distributed in temperate and mediterranean areas throughout the world, but is absent in cold and mountain areas (Holec, 2005). G. junonius is a robust mushroom characterized by its orange to brownish-orange pileus with a noteworthy (frequently fugaceous when old) ring on the stipe.

Multilocus phylogenetic studies place this fungus in the tribe Gymnopileae (Strophariaceae s. lat. family) within the Agaricoid clade (Matheny et al., 2006). Only the whole-genome of the tropical wood-decaying species G. chrysopellus (Berk. & M.A. Curtis) Murrill is available at JGI at the moment of starting the G. junonius genome sequencing. G. junonius is a non-tropical species and one of the sixteen new proposed genomes for sequencing within the large-sacale multi-genome of JGI CSP15-1609 project for the study of the lignocellulolytic machinery in saprobic Agaricales. These two species are specialized in degrading wood at advanced stages of decomposition. The genome sequence of G. junonius will permit to compare genes, enzyme families and lignocellulolytic machinery developed by tropical and extra-tropical wood rotting species involved in late stages of wood decay. Moreover, the G. junonius genome sequence will provide useful information on diversity of lignocellulolytic enzymes, not only within the white-rot wood Agaricales, but also in comparison to white-rot wood Polyporales. In this way, a Gymnopilus sp. strain (together with other tropical species and strains of Agaricales and Polyporales), was demonstrated to degrade more than 50% of lignin and cause a considerable increase of in vitro digestibility of wheat straw after 60 days of incubation (Capelari & Zadrazil, 1997). Understanding the molecular mechanisms of wood decay by species of Gymnopilus could be useful for a more efficient utilization of lignocellulosic substrates in wood biorefineries.

Genome Reference(s)


Capelari, M. and F. Zadarzil, 1997. Lignin Degradation and In vitro Digestibility of Wheat Straw Treated with Brazilian Tropical Species of White Rot Fungi. Folia Microbiol. 42(5): 481-487.

Holec, J., 2005. The genus Gymnopilus (fungi, agaricales) in the czech republic with respect to collections from other european countries. Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae, Series B, Historia Naturalis 61 (1–2): 1–52.

Matheny, P.B., Curtis, J.M., Hofstetter, V., Aime, M.C., Moncalvo, J.M., Ge, Z.W., Yang, Z.L., Slot, J.C., Ammirati, J.F., Baroni, T.J., Bougher, N.L., Hughes, K.W., Lodge, D.J., Kerrigan, R.W., Seidl, M.T., Aanen, D.K., DeNitis, M., Daniele, G.M., Desjardin, D.E., Kropp, B.R., Norvell, L.L., Parker, A., Vellinga, E.C., Vilgalys, R., Hibbett, D.S., 2006. Major clades of Agaricales: a multilocus phylogenetic overview. Mycologia 98, 982-995.

Tanaka, M., K. Hashimoto, T. Okunoa, H. Shirahama, 1993. "Neurotoxic oligoisoprenoids of the hallucinogenic mushroom, Gymnopilus spectabilis". Phytochemistry 34 (3): 661–664.