Photography by Tom Volk

The Amanitin Toxin

Galerina autumnalis contains a cocktail of amatoxins such as α-amanitin, β-amanitin, and γ-amanitin. This family of toxins is known to be present in genus Amanita. There are some exceptions to this guideline such as Conocybe filaris. Another example of a member of the genus Amanita would be  Amanita phalloides, also referred to as the death cap mushroom (pictured below). Although, the death cap mushroom has proven to be far more lethal than Galerina autumnalis. The lethal dose has been reported to be around 5-10 mg of the toxin (Lincoff 1977).  This would mean a healthy human adult would need to consume roughly twenty Galerina autumnalis caps in order to result in a fatality.

Death cap mushroom. Photography courtesy of Austrailian National Botanic Gardens

In a study comparing the toxin levels in Galerina to that of Amanita the overall toxin density of the specific fruiting body  depends on the substrate (Enjalbert, 2004). Regardless, α-amanitin was found in higher quantities within G. autumnalis.

What are the symptoms of Galerina autumnalis poisoning?
Galerina autumnalis needs to be digested in order for the toxin to take effect within the human body. Common digestion symptoms arise in as little as six hours in some cases. This is usually the first indication that the mushroom is the amanitin poisoning. These symptoms usually include persistent vomiting and diarrhea which then brings in concerns about dehydration. In more severe cases patients have reported signs of jaundice, liver failure, convulsions, pulmonary edema, and delusions.

Amanita phalloides, the death cap mushroom.
Australian National Botanic Gardens. 2013.

What are the treatment plans for Galerina autumnalis poisoning?
Currently there is no confirmed antidote for the poisoning and physicians are usually looking into stabilizing the patient's vitals. This includes monitoring fluids and electrolyte balances. There are a few precautionary measures that can be useful if the patient has consumed a large quantity of mushrooms that would  include ipecac to induce vomiting or the use of charcoal to reduce the body's absorption of the toxin. However, there is current information looking into how milk thistle may help with these liver toxins. Click here to read more about it.

How the toxin works.
In one study it shows that the toxin interrupts RNA polymerase II's original function during DNA transcription. RNA polymerase II is an enzyme that helps separate the template strand from the coding strand in order to make mRNA. The source made sure to mention the toxin binds specifically to the polymerase and not the DNA template itself (Rumack 1978). By disrupting this function, the cell is not allowed to create new proteins as it disrupts the central dogma of molecular biology.

The chemical structure of Alpha-Amanita

 The α-amanita toxin is a toxin naturally found in Galerina autumnalis and other poisonous mushrooms. Click on the picture to view the original image to which this is drawn from.


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Redrawn. Kali Fleischauer 2013.