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COMMON INKCAP

Coprinopsis atramentaria

(Formerly: Coprinus atramentarius)
Inkcap (2) & Brittlestem [fungi] Family [Psathyrellaceae]

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(with alcohol)

15th nov 2012, St Helens Canal, Winwick Quay. Photo: © RWD
Whereas Shaggy Inkcap has an upside-down U-shaped cap, that of Common Inkcap is flatter and conical in outline as it decays. Found in clusters arising from buried wood and up to 12cm across and 15cm high.


15th nov 2012, St Helens Canal, Winwick Quay. Photo: © RWD
The cap is without dimple or umbonate middle. Cap is lightly striated, fawn to grey in colour, and has small tan-coloured scales. These are in an advanced state of deliquescence, where the cap liquifies to a black ink at the same time flattening and curling up at the rim.


15th nov 2012, St Helens Canal, Winwick Quay. Photo: © RWD
The stipe is off-white and striated, and plain without a ring or cortina.


15th nov 2012, St Helens Canal, Winwick Quay. Photo: © RWD
As the mushroom dissolves into a liquid black ink, the cap curls upwards and starts splitting as it flattens out.


15th nov 2012, St Helens Canal, Winwick Quay. Photo: © RWD
The tan scales are more in evident on the rounded apex and can fleck off.


Some similarities to other Inkcaps such as : Glistening Inkcap (Coprinellus micaceous) but that has small glistening flecks of white that look like hoar frost which all too easily fall or brush off leaving a mushroom that is a brighter and redder brown than is this one.

Has almost no smell. Poisonous only when alcohol is consumed either side of 48 hours of eating this mushroom. Like all inkcaps, the cap dissolves away into a black inky liquid as it ages, taking the spores with it which drip onto the ground underneath. Like Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus) this is one of the 100 most common mushrooms in the UK.

There are two distinct populations of Inkcap, this one and others are in the Brittlestem Family [Psathyrellaceae], whereas Shaggy Inkcap is in the Agaricaceae Family. Both dissolve themselves into a black liquid.

COPRINE

Common Inkcap (Coprinopsis atramentaria aka Coprinus atramentarius) [but not Shaggy Inkcap] has within it a sulfur-containing non-proteinogenic amino acid (NPAA) called coprine, named after the Genus Coprinus of these mushrooms. Coprine, or N5-1-hydroxycyclopropyl-L-glutamine, metabolises in the body to 1-aminocyclopropanol, which also has the same poisonous effects on the body when consumed with alcohol.



After imbibing alcohol, normally, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH-2) which is within the body metabolises alcohol to dangerously poisonous Acetaldehyde. But the acetaldehyde, is, in its turn, metabolised by the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase-2 which converts the acetaldehyde to the mostly-harmless acetic acid (vinegar).


But if Common Inkcap mushrooms were consumed either side of 24 hours of consuming alcohol, the coprine within the mushrooms prevents the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (which is found within Mitochondrial Organelles) from metabolising acetaldehyde to acetic acid. The result is an increase in the very harmful acetaldehyde, which is the cause of hangovers in the first place. Consuming alcohol and coprine within a day or two gives the imbiber an almost instant and severe hangover. Harmless in itself, coprine is poisonous if the mushroom is ingested during or within 24 hours of having partaken of any alcoholic drink.

Alcohol and Common Inkcap, taken together, also prevent the normal breakdown of the neuro-transmitter Dopamine. This results in an excess of this neurotransmitter within the body, leading to very un-pleasant symptoms such as high anxiety, restlessness and high blood pressure.


ANTABUSE / DISULFIRAM

Disulfiram was an artificial pharmaceutical manufactured to treat parasitic infestations. It is a dimer and consists of two identical units stuck back-to-back and has four atoms of sulfur. It was discovered accidentally that Disulfiram also has the same poisonous effect on the human body as does coprine if alcohol is consumed.

This co-effect is so strong that disulfiram is now marketed as the drug variously known as Disulfiram or Antabuse to prevent alcoholics from drinking, for if they do, then they experience these extremely un-pleasant and very dangerous side effects; acetaldehyde is a poison. The net effect is that anyone on the drug will not be able to drink alcohol for several days afterwards.

Forty percent of East Asians have a faulty version of the gene that is responsible for producing ALDH-2, which goes on to construct a mutant version of ALDH-2 called ALDH-2* which fails to catalyse the destruction of acetaldehyde, inflicting upon them an inherited form of severe alcohol intolerance (Asian Flush) similar in effects to that caused by Coprine or Disulfiram.

On the other hand, 25% of drinkers (including your author) are resistant to hangovers; for they metabolise alcohol and acetaldehyde differently. For people in this category, eating Common Inkcap or being given Disulfiram is unlikely to make drinking an unpleasant experience, but your Author has not tried this.

A new medicinal use has been found for the pharmaceutical Antabuse (aka Disulfiram): to treat patients with the brain cancer called 'glioblastoma' where otherwise only about 27% of patients diagnosed with the illness survive a year or more. Antabuse, when co-administered with the (fluorine-containing) pharmaceutical  gemcitabine (neither of which happen to contain copper), kills cancer infected brain cells by overloading them with copper. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells tend to have elevated levels of copper anyway, and the additional copper load contributed by the disulfiram/gemcitabine combination overloads the cancerous cell with copper, killing them whilst leaving healthy cells alone.

However, Disulfiram is not without side effects of its own. Disulfiram breaks down in the liver to form Tryptophol which is a sleep-inducing compound. Tryptophol is also produced by the Trypanosomal parasite which gives rise to the condition called 'Sleeping Sickness'. The production of Tryptophol also occurs during secondary fermentation processes such as those used in the production of wine, where it is also found. Thus wine can make you sleepy because of the Tryptophol within it. Tryptophol is chemically similar to Tryptamine, but the -OH substitutes the NH2. Indeed, Tryptamine is the precursor of Tryptophol: when yeast attacks the naturally occurring Tryptamine (an indole amine) in the secondary fermentation process, it replaces the NH2 group with the -OH group whilst at the same time giving off carbon dioxide.

A new drug, ALDA-1, has recently been synthesized which repairs the damaged version of ALDH-2 and which then enables those afflicted with this condition to be treatable. It re-activates the mutant ALDH-2* by acting as a chaperone molecule. By this same chaperoning activity, ALDA-1 also increases the effectiveness of ordinary ALDH-2. This drug, ALDA-1, may also find use in heart-attack patients, where damaging acetaldehyde (and another dangerous aldehyde, 4-hydroxynonenol), build up in heart muscles which are short of oxygen, which can result in death. ALDH-2 deactivates both these two aldehydes and another toxic aldehyde, acrolein, which is mostly found in over-cooked food. Containing two atoms of chlorine, ALDA-1 is not found naturally.


  Coprinopsis atramentaria  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Psathyrellaceae  

COMMON INKCAP

Coprinopsis atramentaria

(Formerly: Coprinus atramentarius)
Inkcap (2) & Brittlestem [fungi] Family [Psathyrellaceae]