Handkea utriformis: The Mosaic Puffball

Mosaic puffball, Hankea utriformis (Bull.) Kreisel


Kingdom Fungi
Phylum Basidiomycota
Class Basidiomycetes
Order Agaricales
Family Lycoperdaceae (Puffballs)
Genus Handkea


Calvatia caelata (Bull.) Morgan
Calvatia utriformis (Bull.) Jaap
Lycoperdon bovista Pers.
Lycoperdon caelatum Fr.
Lycoperdon caelatum Bull.
Lycoperdon sinclairii Berk.
Lycoperdon utriforme Bull.

Common names

Mosaic puffball
Pýchavka dlabaná (Czech)


Fruiting body: 6-20 cm broad, 8-20 cm tall, squat and pear-shaped when mature, tapering towards the base, white to dull grey-brown, outer wall consisting of small, flat warts and soon breaking up into hexagonal patches leaving the fragile inner wall to flake off irregularly at the top. Gleba brown and powdery; sterile base thick, up to one-half of the fruit-body.
Spores: olive-brown, globose to subglobose, warted, 4-6 µm in diameter.
Habitat: solitary or clustered in small groups in pastures or open woodlands, often on sandy soil.
Season: summer to late autumn, but the old cup-shaped sterile bases often persist from one season to the next.
Occurence: uncommon; more frequent in northern Europe.
Edibility: edible when young.

Fatty acid composition

A recent Bulgarian study used the techniques of thin layer chromatography and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to investigate the fatty acid composition of several mushrooms from the Lycoperdaceae family, including Handkea  utriformis. Lipid content is low in this species, at 1.8 ± 0.2%. In terms of fatty acid composition, the majority of this is comprised of 18:2Δ9,12 (42.4%), 18:1Δ9 (23.0%) and 16:0 (12.2%). All four species examined a characteristic group of three isomeric hexadecenoic fatty acids (double bond in positions 6-, 9-, and 11-). The presence of 9-icosenoic-, 9,12-icosadienoic-, tricosanoic-, pentacosanoic-, hexacosanoic-, and 11-hexacosenoic acids was reported for the first time in Basidiomycetes (Nedelcheva et al., 2007).

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Medicinal properties

Antimicrobial activity

Dulger (2005) reported on the antimicrobial activity of ten Lycoperdaceae, including H. utriformis. The mosaic puffball showed antimicrobial activity against several Gram-positive and –negative bacteria. The results are summarized in the following table:

Zone of inhibition (mm)
60% MeOH
Bacillus subtilis ATCC 6633
Escherichia coli ATCC 11230
Klebsiella pneumonia
Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 27853
Salmonella typhimurium CCM 5445
Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 6538
Streptococcus pyogenes
Mycobacterium smegmatis DSM 43465

Table 1. Antibacterial activity of 60% methanolic extract (25 mg/ml) of Handkea utriformis against various bacteria, as measured by the zone of inhibition in an agar plate diffusion assay. For comparison, the values for a 2 mg/ml solution of the antibiotic gentamycin (standard) is included. Summarized from Dulger, 2005.

Dulger’s study also showed no significant antifungal activity towards Candida albicans, Rhodotorula rubra, or Kluyveromyces fragilis.

Antiproliferative and antimitogenic activities

A peptide (MW=8 kDa) with an N-terminal sequence similar to ubiquitin was purified from the mosaic puffball mushroom. This peptide inhibited translation in the cell-free rabbit reticulocyte lysate system and exhibited N-glycosidase activity. It potently inhibited proliferation of spleen cells with an IC50 of about 100 nM as indicated by the suppression of [methyl-3H]thymidine uptake. The viability of breast cancer cells was reduced to half at a ubiquitin concentration of about 100 nM (Lam et al., 2001).

Using a chromatographic procedure that had been previously successfully used to isolate ribosome-inactivating proteins from plants, a 39 kDa protein named calcaelin was purified from the mosaic puffball. This protein was dissociated into two subunits (MWs of 19 kDa and 20 kDa) in SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The two bands had the same N-terminal amino acid sequence, similar to those of plant ribosome-inactivating proteins. Calcaelin inhibited translation in rabbit reticulocyte lysate with an IC50 value of 4 nM and displayed a heat-labile RNase activity of 1.58 U/mg toward yeast tRNA. It exhibited an antimitogenic activity toward mouse splenocytes, and it reduced the viability of breast cancer cells (Ng et al., 2003).

Antioxidant activity

H. utriformis was reported to have negligible antioxidant activity (Colombo and Bianco, 2007).

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Colombo, ML, Bianco, MA.
Screening of statin production by fungal strains.
Planta Med 2007 73

Dulger, B.
Antimicrobial activity of ten Lycoperdaceae.
Fitoterapia 2005 76:3/4:352-4.

Lam, YW, Ng, TB, Wang, HX.
Antiproliferative and antimitogenic activities in a peptide from puffball mushroom Calvatia caelata.
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2001 289(3):744-9.

Nedelcheva, D, Antonova, D, Tsvetkova, S, Marekov, I, Momchilova, S, Nikolova-Damyanova, B, Gyosheva, M.
TLC and GC-MS probes into the fatty acid composition of some Lycoperdaceae mushrooms.
J Liq Chrom Rel Technol. 2007 30(18):2717-27.

Ng, TB, Lam, YW, Wang, H.
Calcaelin, a new protein with translation-inhibiting, antiproliferative and antimitogenic activities from the mosaic puffball mushroom Calvatia caelata.
Planta Med. 2003 69(3):212-7.

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