Bioactivity of Morchella species: genetic diversity versus phenotypic plasticity
Recent studies report on a wide range of important bioactive metabolites produced by fungi in their fruiting bodies stage, and many mushrooms are used for nutrition and medicinal purposes. Morel mushrooms (Morchella genus, Ascomycota) are important edible mushrooms primarily obtained from natural growth in the wild. Species belonging to this genus exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory and anti-tumor activities. The high genetic diversity of the Morchella species, as well as the highly diverse habitats, trophic states and morphologies of Morchella species may affect the production of the bioactive metabolites. The present study compared the level of phenols and anti-oxidative activity of mature mushrooms of two distinguished Morchella species, M. esculena (belongs to the Yellow morels group) and M. importuna (belongs to the Black morel s group). In addition, the levels were also determined in the mushrooms according ascocarps` phenotypic color nuances within each population of the two species. Similar levels of phenols and of anti-oxidative activity were recorded for these distinct species, while high variability of the metabolites was recorded within each species, in relation to color intensity. The results suggest that environmental factors affected the production of the bioactive metabolites more than genetic differences between the two species.