Ergothioneine, an adaptive antioxidant for the protection of injured tissues? A hypothesis

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2016 Feb 5;470(2):245-250. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2015.12.124. Epub 2016 Jan 6.


Ergothioneine (ET) is a diet-derived, thiolated derivative of histidine with antioxidant properties. Although ET is produced only by certain fungi and bacteria, it can be found at high concentrations in certain human and animal tissues and is absorbed through a specific, high affinity transporter (OCTN1). In liver, heart, joint and intestinal injury, elevated ET concentrations have been observed in injured tissues. The physiological role of ET remains unclear. We thus review current literature to generate a specific hypothesis: that the accumulation of ET in vivo is an adaptive mechanism, involving the regulated uptake and concentration of an exogenous natural compound to minimize oxidative damage.

Keywords: Adaptation; Antioxidant; Ergothioneine; Mushrooms; OCTN1; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Cytoprotection*
  • Ergothioneine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antioxidants
  • Ergothioneine