Ergothioneine - a diet-derived antioxidant with therapeutic potential

FEBS Lett. 2018 Oct;592(20):3357-3366. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.13123. Epub 2018 Jun 15.


Ergothioneine is a thiol/thione molecule synthesised only by some fungi and bacteria. Nonetheless, it is avidly taken up from the diet by humans and other animals through a transporter, OCTN1, and accumulates to high levels in certain tissues. Ergothioneine is not rapidly metabolised, or excreted in urine and is present in many, if not all, human tissues and body fluids. Ergothioneine has powerful antioxidant and cytoprotective properties in vitro and there is evidence that the body may concentrate it at sites of tissue injury by raising OCTN1 levels. Decreased blood and/or plasma levels of ergothioneine have been observed in some diseases, suggesting that a deficiency could be relevant to the disease onset or progression. This brief Review explores the possible roles of ergothioneine in human health and disease.

Keywords: antioxidant; ergothioneine; oxidative damage; reactive oxygen/nitrogen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Cytoprotection*
  • Diet*
  • Ergothioneine / administration & dosage
  • Ergothioneine / blood
  • Ergothioneine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Symporters


  • Antioxidants
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins
  • SLC22A4 protein, human
  • Symporters
  • Ergothioneine