OPEN Foundation

Monoamine biosynthesis via a noncanonical calcium-activatable aromatic amino acid decarboxylase in psilocybin mushroom

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email


Aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylases (AAADs) are a phylogenetically diverse group of enzymes responsible for the decarboxylation of aromatic amino acid substrates into their corresponding aromatic arylalkylamines. AAADs have been extensively studied in mammals and plants as they catalyze the first step in the production of neurotransmitters and bioactive phytochemicals, respectively. Unlike mammals and plants, the hallucinogenic psilocybin mushroom Psilocybe cubensis reportedly employs an unrelated phosphatidylserine-decarboxylase-like enzyme to catalyze l-tryptophan decarboxylation, the first step in psilocybin biosynthesis. To explore the origin of this chemistry in psilocybin mushroom, we generated the first de novo transcriptomes of P. cubensis and investigated several putative l-tryptophan-decarboxylase-like enzymes. We report the biochemical characterization of a noncanonical AAAD from P. cubensis (PcncAAAD) that exhibits substrate permissiveness toward l-phenylalanine, l-tyrosine, and l-tryptophan, as well as chloro-tryptophan derivatives. The crystal structure of PcncAAAD revealed the presence of a unique C-terminal appendage domain featuring a novel double-β-barrel fold. This domain is required for PcncAAAD activity and regulates catalytic rate and thermal stability through calcium binding. PcncAAAD likely plays a role in psilocybin production in P. cubensis and offers a new tool for metabolic engineering of aromatic-amino-acid-derived natural products.

Torrens-Spence, M. P., Liu, C. T., Pluskal, T., Chung, Y. K., & Weng, J. K. (2018). Monoamine Biosynthesis via a Noncanonical Calcium-Activatable Aromatic Amino Acid Decarboxylase in Psilocybin Mushroom. ACS chemical biology13(12), 3343-3353., 10.1021/acschembio.8b00821
Link to full text

OPEN Foundation

Join ICPR 2022 Online!

ICPR features world-leading experts from many academic disciplines, including psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, ethnobotany, and philosophy who come together to give a scientific conference for academics, therapists, researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and members of the public. Get your ICPR 2022 livestream ticket today and use the code OPENLIVE30 at checkout for a €30 discount.

Learn More


Subscribe to our new OPEN-Minded newsletter to stay in the loop, hear about our events, and become a part of a community dedicated to advancing psychedelics.

By clicking subscribe, I confirm to receive emails from the OPEN Foundation and agree with its privacy policy.