A substance that protects against chemical toxins found in sea mold

(ORDO NEWS) — Biologically active compounds from the marine mold Penicillium dimorphosporum protect cells from the highly toxic herbicide paraquat, against which there is no antidote, and may be able to enhance the action of some drugs. The fungus was isolated from soft coral collected in the South China Sea during an expedition on the Akademik Oparin research vessel.

Antidote-releasing mold will help fight massive herbicide poisoning

Paraquat is a highly toxic herbicide compound for animals and humans. About a hundred countries, including the United States, use it for crop cultivation and weed control. In dozens of countries, including Russia, the use of a poisonous compound is prohibited. The problem of human poisoning with paraquat is widely known in India. Farmers who work in the fields run the risk of receiving a dangerous dose of the substance and perishing.

FEFU specialists, together with Russian and foreign colleagues, have established that compounds from the marine mold Penicillium dimorphosporum can protect against the effects of paraquat. The experiment was carried out on a neuroblastoma cell line. By origin, these are tumor cells, which are used to study the neuroprotective (neuroprotective) activity of potential drugs.

“At a very low concentration, about one micromole per liter, the compounds found increased the viability of cells treated with paraquat by almost 40 percent compared to cells treated with paraquat alone. In the course of further research, we want to clarify in more detail how these naturally occurring molecules protect the cell. Perhaps they act as antioxidants, and, probably, they can also protect cells from other toxic substances, ”said Olesya Zhuravleva, PhD in Chemistry, head of the laboratory of biologically active compounds at the School of Natural Sciences of the Far Eastern Federal University.

According to the researcher, many natural compounds have the disadvantage that there are too few of them in the producing organism for detailed study.

In this sense, the sea mushroom Penicillium dimorphosporum is no exception: it does not produce enough active compounds directly. However, thanks to an interesting feature of the metabolism of the fungus, noticed by scientists, the restriction can be circumvented. The point is in the wide variety of isomeric compounds that the fungus produces. They have the same elemental composition, but different structures. It looks like a kind of natural crooked mirror, where the same set of atoms is reflected many times and in different ways, giving compounds different functions and leaving scientists the opportunity to modify them. Usually, the synthesis of a large number of isomers is not typical for living organisms.

“In this regard, we plan to study in detail not the active compound itself, but its isomer, which the fungus synthesizes in large quantities, and we can modify it to the state of an active substance. This is a very good move, because a substance that is scarce is much more difficult to isolate from a natural source than it is to modify what is already in large quantities. For example, a mushroom produces 200 mg of an inactive compound that we can modify against as little as six milligrams of an active natural substance. Many medicinal compounds are obtained in a similar semi-synthetic way, which allows avoiding a complex and expensive complete synthesis, ”said Olesya Zhuravleva. Scientists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) and the Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry named after V.I. BElyakova told in the magazine Marine Drugs.

In the next stages, the scientists plan to study in detail the neuroprotective mechanism of the selected active compounds, as well as their potential in combination with other drugs. According to the hypothesis that has arisen, the active molecules of the sea fungus can enhance the effect of some known drugs.

This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project 19-74-10014). The research involved the teams of the Far Eastern Federal University, the Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry named after V.I. G.B. Elyakov (TIBOCH FEB RAS), Institute of Chemistry FEB RAS, as well as foreign specialists from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Germany), the Vietnamese Academy of Sciences and Technologies (Institute of Scientific Research and Applied Technologies of Nha Trang).

The oceans are one of the priority areas of research work, recorded in the FEFU development program until 2029. University scientists not only conduct research on medicinal compounds of marine origin, but also develop engineering solutions for Arctic ice platforms (exploration and mining), underwater robotics, under-ice communications, etc.

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