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Concept: Ergoline


Ergot derivatives are drugs with vasoconstrictor effects that are used to abort migraine attacks. This study aims to determine how ergotamine derivatives are prescribed by physicians in Colombia, find variables associated with inappropriate prescribing, and review potential interactions in our patients.

Concepts: Caffeine, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


Use of unauthorized synthetic drugs is a serious, forensic, regulatory and public health issue. In this scenario, consumption of drug-impregnated blotters is very frequent. For decades, blotters have been generally impregnated with the potent hallucinogen known as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); however, since 2013 blotter stamps with N-2 methoxybenzyl-substituted phenylethylamine hallucinogen designated as “NBOMes” have been seized in Chile. To address this issue with readily accessible laboratory equipment, we have developed and validated a new HPTLC method for the identification and quantitation of 25-C-NBOMe in seized blotters and its confirmation by GC-MS. The proposed method was validated according to SWGTOX recommendations and is suitable for routine analysis of seized blotters containing 25-C-NBOMe. With the validated method, we analyzed 15 real samples, in all cases finding 25-C-NBOMe in a wide dosage range (701.0-1943.5 µg per blotter). In this situation, we can assume that NBOMes are replacing LSD as the main hallucinogenic drug consumed in blotters in Chile.

Concepts: Drug, Lysergic acid diethylamide, Lysergic acid, Ergot, Psychedelic drug, Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, Ergoline


Ergot alkaloids are highly diverse in structure, exhibit diverse effects on animals, and are produced by diverse fungi in phylum Ascomycota, including pathogens and mutualistic symbionts of plants. These mycotoxins are best known from the fungal family, Clavicipitaceae, and are named for the ergot fungi that, through millennia, have contaminated grains and caused mass poisonings, with effects ranging from dry gangrene to convulsions and death. However, they are also useful sources of pharmaceuticals for a variety of medical purposes. More than a half-century of research has brought us extensive knowledge of ergot-alkaloid biosynthetic pathways from common early steps to several taxon-specific branches. Furthermore, a recent flurry of genome sequencing has revealed the genomic processes underlying ergot-alkaloid diversification. In this review we discuss the evolution of ergot-alkaloid biosynthesis genes and gene clusters, including roles of gene recruitment, duplication and neofunctionalization, as well as gene loss, in diversifying structures of clavines, lysergic acid amides and complex ergopeptines. Also reviewed are prospects for manipulating ergot alkaloid profiles to enhance suitability of endophytes for forage grasses.

Concepts: Evolution, Fungus, Ascomycota, Alkaloid, Lysergic acid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


The development of fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë in grasses results in the production of different groups of alkaloids, whose mechanism and biological spectrum of toxicity can differ considerably. Ergot alkaloids, when present in endophyte-infected tall fescue, are responsible for “fescue toxicosis” in livestock, whereas indole-diterpene alkaloids, when present in endophyte-infected ryegrass, are responsible for “ryegrass staggers”. In contrast, peramine and loline alkaloids are deterrent and/or toxic to insects. Other toxic effects in livestock associated with the consumption of endophyte-infected grass that contain ergot alkaloids include the “sleepy grass” and “drunken horse grass” diseases. Although ergovaline is the main ergopeptine alkaloid produced in endophyte-infected tall fescue and is recognized as responsible for fescue toxicosis, a number of questions still exist concerning the profile of alkaloid production in tall fescue and the worldwide distribution of tall fescue toxicosis. The purpose of this review is to present ergot alkaloids produced in endophyte-infected grass, the factors of variation of their level in plants, and the diseases observed in the mammalian species as relate to the profiles of alkaloid production. In the final section, interactions between ergot alkaloids and drug-metabolizing enzymes are presented as mechanisms that could contribute to toxicity.

Concepts: Plant, Fungus, Poaceae, Alkaloid, Endophyte, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


Different group of alkaloids are produced during the symbiotic development of fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë in grass. The structure and toxicity of the compounds vary considerably in mammalian herbivores and in crop pests. Alkaloids of the indole-diterpene group, of which lolitrem B is the most toxic, were first characterized in endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass, and are responsible for “ryegrass staggers.” Ergot alkaloids, of which ergovaline is the most abundant ergopeptide alkaloid produced, are also found in ryegrass, but generally at a lower rate than lolitrem B. Other alkaloids such as lolines and peramine are toxic for crop pests but have weak toxicological properties in mammals. The purpose of this review is to present indole-diterpene alkaloids produced in endophyte infected ryegrass from the first characterization of ryegrass staggers to the determination of the toxicokinetics of lolitrem B and of their mechanism of action in mammals, focusing on the different factors that could explain the worldwide distribution of the disease. Other indole diterpene alkaloids than lolitrem B that can be found in Epichloë infected ryegrass, and their tremorgenic properties, are presented in the last section of this review.

Concepts: Plant, Fungus, Toxicity, Alkaloid, Endophyte, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


The ergot alkaloids, a class of fungal-derived natural products with important biological activities, are derived from a common intermediate, chanoclavine-I, which is elaborated into a set of diverse structures. Herein we report the discovery of the biosynthetic pathway of cycloclavine, a complex ergot alkaloid containing a cyclopropyl moiety. We used a yeast-based expression platform along with in vitro biochemical experiments to identify the enzyme that catalyzes a rearrangement of the chanoclavine-I intermediate to form a cyclopropyl moiety. The resulting compound, cycloclavine, was produced in yeast at titers of >500 mg L(-1) , thus demonstrating the feasibility of the heterologous expression of these complex alkaloids.

Concepts: Metabolism, Enzyme, Fungus, Nitrogen, Alkaloid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


Four sets of polyclonal antibodies against ergot alkaloids ergometrine, ergotamine, α-ergocryptine, and ergocornine were produced and characterized in a competitive direct or indirect enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Standard curve LODs were 0.03 ng/mL (ergometrine EIA) to 2.0 ng/mL (ergocornine EIA). Three EIAs were highly specific, whereas the ergometrine EIA had a broad specificity pattern and reacted, albeit weakly, with all seven major ergot alkaloids and their epimeric forms. Using the ergometrine EIA, a generic test system was established in which total ergot alkaloids are quantified by a standard curve for a toxin mixture composed of three alkaloids that matched the ergot alkaloid composition in naturally contaminated rye and wheat products. Sample extraction with acetonitrile–phosphate-buffered saline at pH 6.0 without further cleanup was sufficient for EIA analysis. The LODs for total ergot alkaloids were 20 ng/g in rye and wheat flour and 14 ng/g in bread. Recoveries were 85–110% (RSDs of 0.1–11.7%) at a concentration range of 50–1000 ng/g. The total ergot alkaloid EIA was validated by comparison with HPLC–fluorescence detection. Although some under- and overestimation by the total ergot alkaloid EIA was observed, it was suitable for the reliable identification of positive samples at 10–20 ng/g and for the determination of total ergot alkaloids in a concentration range between 100 and 1000 ng/g.

Concepts: Wheat, Rye, Flour, Alkaloid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine, Ergotism


Neosartorya fumigata (Aspergillus fumigatus) is the most common cause of invasive aspergillosis, a frequently fatal lung disease primarily affecting immunocompromised individuals. This opportunistic fungal pathogen produces several classes of specialised metabolites including products of a branch of the ergot alkaloid pathway called fumigaclavines. The biosynthesis of the N. fumigata ergot alkaloids and their relation to those produced by alternate pathway branches in fungi from the plant-inhabiting Clavicipitaceae have been well-characterised, but the potential role of these alkaloids in animal pathogenesis has not been studied extensively. We investigated the contribution of ergot alkaloids to virulence of N. fumigata by measuring mortality in the model insect Galleria mellonella. Larvae were injected with conidia (asexual spores) of two different wild-type strains of N. fumigata and three different ergot alkaloid mutants derived by previous gene knockouts and differing in ergot alkaloid profiles. Elimination of all ergot alkaloids significantly reduced virulence of N. fumigata in G. mellonella (P < 0.0001). Mutants accumulating intermediates but not the pathway end product fumigaclavine C also were less virulent than the wild type (P < 0.0003). The data indicate that ergot alkaloids contribute to virulence of N. fumigata in this insect model and that fumigaclavine C is important for full virulence.

Concepts: Fungus, Aspergillosis, Aspergillus, Aspergillus fumigatus, Alkaloid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine


An efficient and direct route to ergot alkaloid (-)-chanoclavine I (3) is described using the inexpensive compound (2R)-(+)-phenyloxirane (15) as a chiral pool in 13 steps with 17% overall yield. Key features of the synthesis include a palladium-catalyzed intramolecular aminoalkynylation of terminal olefin and a rhodium-catalyzed intramolecular [3 + 2] annulation. An oxygen-substituted ergoline derivative (-)-25 was also achieved by using the same strategy.

Concepts: Total synthesis, Alkaloid, Lysergic acid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine, Ergotism, Ergine


A newly developed enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for the detection of the tremorgenic indole-diterpene alkaloid paxilline (PAX) and closely related analogs was used to analyze ergot sclerotia collected from rye and barley fields. The mean EIA standard curve detection limit was 0.47 ± 0.14 ng/mL; relative cross-reactivity of toxin standard solutions was found for 11-hydroxy-paspaline (terpendole E, 1.1%) but not for lolitrem B or ergot alkaloids. Sclerotia from all fields were positive in the PAX-EIA at concentration levels of 620 ± 200 and 160 ± 37 μg/kg in ergot of rye and 130 ± 47 μg/kg in ergot of barley. Confirmatory analyses of sclerotia by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometric detection identified PAX and its analog 13-desoxypaxilline. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the natural occurrence of tremorgenic indole-diterpene alkaloid mycotoxins in ergot sclerotia from rye and barley. Along with details on the analytical methodology developed in this study, particularly PAX-antibody production, the relevance and implications of these findings for food and feed safety are discussed. Presence or absence of elevated levels of tremorgenic mycotoxins, along with the ergot alkaloids, would help in explaining the difference between the two distinct manifestations of historic ergotism, the convulsive and the gangrenous form. Further method development for paxilline and other tremorgenic mycotoxins in cereals used for food and feed is a prerequisite for a comprehensive risk assessment, which seems to be necessary in light of the findings reported here. Paxilline in ergot of rye.

Concepts: Fungus, Cereal, Rye, Alkaloid, Ergot, Ergoline, Ergotamine, Ergotism