Coprinopsis cinerea

Coprinopsis cinerea (Schaeff).


Agaricus cinereus Schaeff.
  Fung. Bavar. Palat. 4: 100 (1774)
Agaricus cinereus Schaeff.
  Fung. Bavar. Palat. 4: 100 (1774) var. cinereus
Agaricus cinereus var. macrorhizus (Pers.) Fr.
  Syst. mycol. (Lundae) 1: 311 (1821)
Agaricus macrorhizus Pers.
  Syn. meth. fung. (Göttingen) 2: 398 (1801)
Agaricus radians Batsch
  Elench. fung. (Halle): 61 (1783)
Agaricus stercorarius Bull.
  Hist. Champ. France (Paris): 398, tab. 68; 542:2 (1792)
Coprinus cinereus (Schaeff.) Gray
  Nat. Arr. Brit. Pl. (London) 1: 634 (1821)
Coprinus delicatulus Apinis
  Trans. Br. mycol. Soc. 48: 653 (1965)
Coprinus fimetarius sensu auct. brit.
  fide Checklist of Basidiomycota of Great Britain and Ireland (2005)
Coprinus fimetarius var. cinereus (L.) Fr.
  Epicr. syst. mycol. (Upsaliae): 246 (1838)
Coprinus fimetarius var. macrorhizus (Pers.) Sacc.
  Syll. fung. (Abellini) 5: 1087 (1887)
Coprinus macrorhizus (Pers.) Rea
  Brit. basidiomyc. (Cambridge): 503 (1922)

Like many other species originally in genus Coprinus, Coprinopsis cinera was transferred when the genus was divided based on phylogenetic analyses of molecular data (Redhead et al., 2001).

Common names

Wooly cap
Inky cap


Cap: 0.5-2 cm in diameter, conical to ovoid in shape and covered with white floccose or fibrillose tufts of ‘hairs’ when young, expanding to conical or campanulate; grayish-brown or brown in color, margin grey; becoming glabrous with age.
Gills: free, crowded, narrow, white or grey then becoming black in age.
Stem: 0.5-1.5 cm tall x 3-4 mm (apex) to 5-10 mm (base), tapering downwards with a rooting base in the ground, fibrillose, white.
Spore print: black.
Spores: ellipsoid or ovoid in shape, with rounded base and apex, and central, approximately 1.3-1.5 µm wide germ pore, dark red-brown under microscope; 8.5-12 x 6-8 µm,
Edibility: edible.
Habitat: commonly found in dung or wood chips.

The ease of laboratory culture and the relatively short duration of its life cycle have made C. cinerea popular for a variety of genetic investigations (Kamada, 2002).

Bioactive compounds

Galectins (β-galactoside-binding lectin) have been isolated from C. cinerea, the first of this lectin family to be found outside of the animal kingdom (Cooper et al., 1997). These galectins, termed Cgl-1 and Cgl-2, have since been purified and crystallized (López-Lucendo et al., 2004).

Medicinal properties

Antitumor effects

Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of Coprinopsis cinerea (as Coprinus macrorhizus) and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 75% and 80%, respectively (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).

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Fungi of Poland


Cooper DN, Boulianne PR, Charlton S, Farrell EM, Sucher ALBC.
Fungal galectins, sequence and specificity of two isolectins from Coprinus cinereus.
J Biol Chem. 1997 272:1514-1521.

Kamada T.
Molecular genetics of sexual development in the mushroom Coprinus cinereus.
Bioessays. 2002 24(5):449-59.

López-Lucendo MF, Giménez-Gallego G, Cooper DN, Gabius HJ, Romero A.
Gene design, expression, crystallization and preliminary diffraction analysis of two isolectins from the fungus Coprinus cinereus: a model for studying functional diversification of galectins in the same organism and their evolutionary pathways.
Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2004 60(Pt 4):721-4.

Ohtsuka S, Ueno S, Yoshikumi C, Hirose F, Ohmura Y, Wada T, Fujii T, Takahashi E.
Polysaccharides having an anticarcinogenic effect and a method of producing them from species of Basidiomycetes.
UK Patent 1331513, 26 September 1973.

Redhead SA, Vilgalys R, Moncalvo J-M, Johnson J, Hopple JS Jr.
Coprinus Pers. and the disposition of Coprinus species sensu lato.
Taxon 50(1):203-241.

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