From The Plant Encyclopedia
4 - 9
- Cultivation: Invastive
- Light: Sun, Dappled, Part-Shade
- Soil: Rich
- pH: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
- Moisture: Medium
- Form: Herbaceous
- Habit: Perennial
- Fruit/Seed: Small, Brown
- Uses: Medicinal
Claviceps purpurea is a Fungus that grows on the ears of Rye and related Cereal and Forage plants. Consumption of grains or seeds contaminated with the fruiting structure of this fungus, the ergot Sclerotium, can cause Ergotism in humans and other mammals.<ref>ergot, online medical dictionary</ref><ref>ergot, Dorland's Medical Dictionary</ref>. C. purpurea most commonly affects outcrossing species such as Rye (its most common host), as well as Triticale, Wheat and Barley. It affects Oats only rarely.
Life cycleSpore of C. purpurea. The infection process mimics a Pollen grain growing into an ovary during Fertilization. Because infection requires access of the fungal spore to the stigma, plants infected by C. purpurea are mainly Outcrossing species with open flowers, such as rye (Secale cereale) and Alopecurus. The proliferating fungal Mycelium then destroys the plant ovary and connects with the Vascular bundle originally intended for feeding the developing Seed. The first stage of ergot infection manifests itself as a white soft tissue (known as Sphacelia segetum) producing sugary honeydew, which often drops out of the infected grass florets. This honeydew contains millions of asexual spores (Conidia) which are dispersed to other florets by Insects or rain. Later, the Sphacelia segetum convert into a hard dry Sclerotium clavus inside the husk of the floret. At this stage, alkaloids and Lipids (e.g. Ricinoleic acid) accumulate in the Sclerotium.
When a mature Sclerotium drops to the ground, the fungus remains dormant until proper conditions trigger its fruiting phase (onset of spring, rain period, need of fresh temperatures during inter, etc.). It germinates, forming one or several Fruiting bodies with head and stipe, variously colored (resembling a tiny Mushroom). In the head, threadlike sexual spores are formed, which are ejected simultaneously, when suitable grass hosts are flowering. Ergot infection causes a reduction in the yield and quality of grain and hay produced, and if infected grain or hay is fed to livestock it may cause a disease called Ergotism.
Insects, including flies and moths, have been shown to carry conidia of Claviceps species, but if insects play a role in spreading the fungus from infected to healthy plants is unknown.<ref name="Butler et al">Butler, M.D., Alderman, S. C., Hammond, P.C., Berry, R. E. (2001). "Association of Insects and Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) in Kentucky Bluegrass Seed Production Fields". J. Econ. Entomol. 94 (6): 1471–1476. doi:10.1603/0022-0493-94.6.1471. PMID 11777051. http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1603/0022-0493(2001)094%5B1471%3AAOIAEC%5D2.0.CO%3B2. </ref>
Intraspecific variationsPoaceae as Secale cereale. 1855, Grandclement<ref>fckLRTemplate:Cite journalfckLR fckLR</ref> described ergot on Triticum aestivum. During more than a century scientists aimed to describe specialized species or specialized varieties inside the species Claviceps purpurea. That's how the species are created.
- Claviceps microcephala Tul. (1853)
- Claviceps wilsonii Cooke (1884)
Later scientists tried to determine host varieties as
- Claviceps purpurea var. agropyri
- Claviceps purpurea var. purpurea
- Claviceps purpurea var. spartinae
- Claviceps purpurea var.wilsonii.
But molecular biology hasn't confirmed this hypothesis but has distinguished three groups differing in their ecological specificity.
- G1 — land grasses of open meadows and fields;
- G2 — grasses from moist, forest, and mountain habitats;
- G3 (C. purpurea var. spartinae) — salt marsh grasses (Spartina, Distichlis).
The criteria to distinguish different groups was the morphology: The shape and the size are not good indicators because they strongly depend on the size and shape of the host floret. The size of conidia can be an indication but it is weak and it is necessary to pay attention to that, due to osmotic pressure, it varies significantly if the spores are observed in honeydew and or in water. The density can be used indeed the group G3 is adapted to float in salt water.
The compound of alkaloids is also used to differentiate the strains.
Agrostis canina, Alopecurus myosuroides (G2), Alopecurus arundinaceus (G2), Alopecurus pratense, Bromus arvensis, Bromus commutatus, Bromus hordeaceus (G2), Bromus inermis<ref name="Pažoutová">Eken C., Pažoutová S., Honzátko A., Yildiz S. (2006). "First report of Alopecurus arundinaceus, A. myosuroides, Hordeum violaceum and Phleum pratense as hosts of Claviceps purpurea population G2 in Turkey.". J. Plant Pathol. 88: 121. </ref>, Bromus marginatus, Elymus tsukushiense, Festuca arundinacea<ref name="Douhan">fckLRDouhan G. W., Smith M. E., Huyrn, K. L., Yildiz S. (2008). "Multigene analysis suggests ecological speciation in the fungal pathogen Claviceps purpureafckLR". Molecular Ecology 17fckLR (9): 2276–2286. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03753.x. PMID 18373531. </ref>, Elytrigia repens (G1), Nardus stricta, Poa annua (G2), Phleum pratense, Phalaris arundinacea (G2), Poa pratensis (G1), Stipa.
Claviceps purpurea has been known to mankind for a long time, and its appearance has been linked to extremely cold winters that were followed by rainy springs.
The sclerotial stage of C. purpurea conspicuous on the heads of ryes and other such grains is known as ergot. Sclerotia germinate in spring after a period of low temperature. A temperature of 0-5°C for at least 25 days is required. Water before the cold period is also necessary.<ref>Kichhoff H. (1929) Beiträge zur Biologie und Physiologie des Mutterkornpilzes. Centralblat. Bakteriol. Parasitenk. Abt. II, 77, 310-369.</ref> Favorable temperatures for stroma production are in the range of 10-25°C.<ref name="Mitchell">Mitchell D.T. (1968) Some effects of temperature on germination of sclerotia in Claviceps purpurea. Trans. Br. mycol. Soc., 51(5), 721-729.</ref> Favorable temperatures for mycelial growth are in the range of 20-30°C with an optimum at 25°C.<ref name="Mitchell" />
The disease cycle of the ergot fungus was first described in 1853<ref>Tulasne, L.-R. (1853) Mémoire sur l'ergot des glumacéses Ann. Sci. Nat. (Parie Botanique), 20 5-56</ref>, but the connection with ergot and epidemics among people and animals was reported already in a scientific text in 1676<ref>Dodart D. (1676) Le journal des savans , T. IV, p. 79</ref>. The ergot sclerotium contains high concentrations (up to 2% of dry mass) of the Alkaloid Ergotamine, a complex molecule consisting of a tripeptide-derived cyclol-lactam ring connected via Amide linkage to a Lysergic acid (ergoline) moiety, and other alkaloids of the Ergoline group that are biosynthesized by the fungus.<ref name="Tudzynski">Tudzynski P, Correia T, Keller U (2001). "Biotechnology and genetics of ergot alkaloids". Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 57 (5-6): 4593–4605. doi:10.1007/s002530100801. PMID 11778866. </ref> Ergot alkaloids have a wide range of biological activities including effects on circulation and Neurotransmission.<ref name="Eadie">Eadie MJ (2003). "Convulsive ergotism: epidemics of the serotonin syndrome?". Lancet Neurol. 2 (7): 429–434. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(03)00439-3. PMID 12849122. </ref>
Ergotism is the name for sometimes severe pathological syndromes affecting humans or animals that have ingested ergot alkaloid-containing plant material, such as ergot-contaminated grains. Monks of the order of St. Anthony the Great specialized in treating ergotism victims<ref name="mia">Microbiology in Action. P115. By J. Heritage, Emlyn Glyn Vaughn Evans, R. A. Killington. Cambridge University Press, 1999.</ref> with balms containing tranquilizing and circulation-stimulating plant extracts; they were also skilled in amputations. The common name for ergotism is "St. Anthony's Fire"<ref name="mia" />, in reference to monks who cared for victims as well as symptoms, such as severe burning sensations in the limbs.<ref>St. Anthony's Fire -- Ergotism</ref> These are caused by effects of ergot alkaloids on the vascular system due to Vasoconstriction of blood vessels, sometimes leading to Gangrene and loss of limbs due to severely restricted blood circulation.
The neurotropic activities of the ergot alkaloids may also cause Hallucinations and attendant irrational behaviour, convulsions, and even death.<ref name="Tudzynski" /><ref name="Eadie" /> Other symptoms include strong uterine contractions, Nausea, Seizures, and unconsciousness. Since the Middle Ages, controlled doses of ergot were used to induce Abortions and to stop maternal bleeding after childbirth.<ref name="lfn">Untersuchungen über das Verhalten der Secalealkaloide bei der Herstellung von Mutterkornextrakten. Labib Farid Nuar. Universität Wien - 1946 - (University of Vienna)</ref> Ergot alkaloids are also used in products such as Cafergot (containing Caffeine and Ergotamine<ref name="lfn" /> or Ergoline) to treat migraine headaches. Ergot extract is no longer used as a Pharmaceutical preparation.
Ergot contains no Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) but ergotamine, which is used to synthesize Lysergic acid, an analog of and precursor for synthesis of LSD. Moreover, ergot sclerotia naturally contain some amounts of lysergic acid.<ref name="Correia et al">Correia T, Grammel N, Ortel I, Keller U, Tudzynski P. (2001). "Molecular cloning and analysis of the ergopeptine assembly system in the ergot fungus Claviceps purpurea". Chem Biol. 10 (12): 1281–1292. doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2003.11.013. PMID 14700635. </ref>
CulturePotato dextrose agar, wheat seeds or oat flour are suitable substrates for growth of the fungus in the laboratory.<ref>http://deposit.ddb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=979484383 Genetische Variation für Resistenz gegen Mutterkorn (Claviceps purpurea [Fr.] Tul.) bei selbstinkompatiblen und selbstfertilen Roggenpopulationen</ref>. Agricultural production of Claviceps purpurea on rye is used to produce ergot alkaloids. Biological production of ergot alkaloids is also carried out by saprophytic cultivations.
Human poisoning due to the consumption of rye bread made from ergot-infected grain was common in Europe in the Middle Ages. The epidemic was known as Saint Anthony's fire<ref name="mia" />, or ignis sacer.
Linnda R. Caporael posited in 1976 that the hysterical symptoms of young women that had spurred the Salem witch trials had been the result of consuming ergot-tainted rye.<ref>Caporael LR (April 1976). "Ergotism: the satan loosed in Salem?". Science (journal) 192 (4234): 21–6. doi:10.1126/science.769159. PMID 769159. http://web.utk.edu/~kstclair/221/ergotism.html. </ref> However, her conclusions were later disputed by Nicholas P. Spanos and Jack Gottlieb, after a review of the historical and medical evidence.<ref>Spanos NP, Gottlieb J (December 1976). "Ergotism and the Salem Village witch trials". Science (journal) 194 (4272): 1390–4. doi:10.1126/science.795029. PMID 795029. </ref> Other authors have likewise cast doubt on ergotism having been the cause of the Salem witch trials.<ref name="Woolf">Woolf A (2000). "Witchcraft or mycotoxin? The Salem witch trials". J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 38 (4): 457–460. doi:10.1081/CLT-100100958. PMID 10930065. </ref>
British author John Grigsby claims that the presence of ergot in the stomachs of some of the so called 'bog-bodies' (Iron Age human remains from peat bogs N E Europe such as Tollund Man), reveals that ergot was once a ritual drink in a prehistoric fertility cult akin to the Eleusinian Mysteries cult of ancient Greece. In his book Beowulf and Grendel he argues that the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is based on a memory of the quelling of this fertility cult by followers of Odin. He states that Beowulf, which he translates as barley-wolf, suggests a connection to ergot which in German was known as the 'tooth of the wolf'.
In 1951 at Pont St. Esprit in France there was an outbreak of violent hallucinations among hundreds of residents. At the time, this was alleged by scientists working for the LSD-producing Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz to be mass ergot poisoning, but there is now some disputed evidence that this episode was due to LSD administered covertly to the population by the CIA<ref>A TERRIBLE MISTAKE: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments ; October 2009, TrineDay Publishers, ISBN 0977795373. Review in The Telegraph, 2010-03-11</ref>.
|Search Wikimedia Commons||Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ergot|
- Claviceps purpurea - Ergot Alkaloid
- Ergot article from North Dakota State University, 2002
- PBS Secrets of the Dead: "The Witches Curse" (concerning the Salem trials and ergot)
- New England Journal of Medicine - Dopamine Agonists and the Risk of Cardiac-Valve Regurgitation
- Linnda Caporeal's article "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?