Carnivorous oyster mushrooms can kill roundworms with “nerve fuel in a lollipop”

Oyster mushrooms growing on tree trunk in forest.

Enlarge / Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) serenely rising on a tree trunk in a forest. However nematodes beware! These oyster mushrooms need to eat you—and so they have advanced a novel mechanism for paralyzing and killing you. (credit score: Arterra/Getty Photographs)

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are a staple of many sorts of delicacies, prized for its gentle flavors and a scent vaguely hinting at anise. These cream-colored mushrooms are additionally one in all a number of forms of carnivorous fungi that prey on nematodes (roundworms) particularly. The mushrooms have advanced a novel mechanism for paralyzing and killing its nematode prey: a toxin contained inside lollipop-like buildings referred to as toxocysts that, when emitted, causes widespread cell demise in roundworms inside minutes. Scientists have now recognized the precise risky natural compound chargeable for this impact, in accordance with a brand new paper revealed within the journal Science Advances.

Carnivorous fungi just like the oyster mushroom feed on nematodes as a result of these little creatures are plentiful in soil and supply a helpful protein supply. Completely different species have advanced varied mechanisms for searching and consuming their prey. As an illustration, oomycetes are fungus-like organisms that ship out “hunter cells” to seek for nematodes. As soon as they discover them, they kind cysts close to the mouth or anus of the roundworms after which inject themselves into the worms to assault the inner organs. One other group of oomycetes makes use of cells that behave like prey-seeking harpoons, injecting the fungal spores into the worm to seal its destiny.

Different fungi produce spores with irritating shapes like stickles or stilettos. The nematodes swallow the spores, which get caught within the esophagus and germinate by puncturing the worm’s intestine. There are sticky branch-like buildings that act like superglue; demise collars that detach when nematodes swim via them, injecting themselves into the worms; and a dozen or so fungal species make use of snares that constrict in underneath a second, squeezing the nematodes to demise.

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