“Mushroom Alcohol”, Neurodegeneration and PARKINSON’S DISEASE



“Mushroom Alcohol”, Neurodegeneration and PARKINSON’S DISEASE

During Hurricane Katrina, researcher Joan Bennett lived in New Orleans and worked at Tulane University.  Her home was flooded by the hurricane and during the clean up period, she was plagued with headaches, nausea and dizziness.  Her work was as a scientist, and specifically as a plant pathologist, so she collected samples of the molds she found wearing appropriate protective gear and masks and gloves. A bit later, she transferred her job to Rutgers.

There, she met Arati Inamdar, Ph.D., who is a researcher in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers.  Together, they began testing Bennett’s samples of mold in hopes of finding why Bennett had been sickened after Katrina.  They discovered that those mold samples contained a volatile organic compound known as 1-octen-3-ol, that is also known commonly as mushroom alcohol.  They exposed fruit flies to this compound and found that they developed movement disorders similar to the disorders caused by pesticides such as rotenone or paraquat.  Further testing showed that 1-octen-3-ol caused loss of dopamine in two specific genes that lead to a loss of neurons and the development of Parkinson’s like symptoms.

“Parkinson’s has been linked to exposure to environmental toxins, but the toxins were man-made chemicals,” said Inamdar.  “In this paper, we show that biologic compounds have the potential to damage dopamine and cause Parkinson’s symptoms.”  Many new studies show that Parkinson’s disease is increasing in rural areas, but is often thought to be from exposure to pesticides.  Rural areas also have high rates of mold and mushroom exposure.  Now there is the possibility that for people with a genetic predisposition, molds and volatile compounds that are produced by molds and fungus may also lead to the development of symptoms like PARKINSON’S DISEASE.

As with most research projects, this work was accomplished by a team.  On this team were Muhammad Hossein, Jason Richardson, Alison Bernstein and Gary Miller.  Their paper was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..


Fungal-derived semiochemical 1-octen-3-ol disrupts dopamine packaging and causes neurodegeneration

Arati A. Inamdar,Muhammad M. Hossain, Alison I. Bernstein, Gary W. Miller, Jason R. Richardson,and Joan Wennstrom Bennett PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print November 11, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1318830110


Review by Marcia McCall

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