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Lentinan, the most studied beta-glucan from Shiitake

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    For decades researchers worldwide have been captivated by the ability of medicinal mushrooms to break down organic matter and their traditional medicinal uses.

    Specifically, their research has focused on bioactive compounds of interest contained in mushrooms. These include various nutraceuticals such as lectins, triterpenoids, polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, proteoglycans, and ergosterol.

    In this inventory is lentinan, a polysaccharide found in Shiitake. The compound has attracted considerable attention from the scientific community due to its potential impact on the immune system.

    Where does Lentinan come from?

    Lentinan originates from the Shiitake mushroom, a mushroom well known to gourmets and natural remedy enthusiasts.

     

    Its name directly reflects the Latin classification of this mushroom: Lentinula edodes, similar to how ganoderan corresponds to Ganoderma lucidum or grifolan to Grifola frondosa.

     

    Shiitake, which often grows on tree trunks, is much more than just a culinary ingredient. Its active biomolecules, including lentinan, are now the focus of exciting research aimed at understanding and utilising its properties.

     

    >> For more information on Shiitake, see our article on Shiitake.

    Lentinan: a Shiitake polysaccharide

    Shiitake’s lentinan belongs to the polysaccharide family. These molecules are contained in all basidiomycete fungi, among which it is found. More specifically, lentinan belongs to the beta-glucan subfamily.

     

    Elucidated in the 1970s, the primary structure of lentinan consists of a backbone of glucose units linked by beta-glycosidic bonds at 1,3 and branching at 1,6. The numbers correspond to the way the units are linked together.

     

    Ultimately, the specific molecular structure of lentinan consists of 5 glucose units linked at 1,3 with 2 glucose branches at 1,6. Although β-glucans are common, there are significant variations in their biological activities due to their different structures.

    The importance of polysaccharides in mushrooms

    Lentinan and polysaccharides are of vital importance for the survival of all fungi and are at the heart of their life processes.

    • Movements: to expand rather than “move”, fungi develop hyphae. Movement is stimulated by the production of hyper-amplified polysaccharides.
    • Nutrition: polysaccharides are present during the degradation of lignocellulosic material and contribute to the production, movement and activity of enzymes.
    • Communication: in the cell wall, polysaccharides form networks which, during cell division and fungal growth, are used as channels for cell communication and signalling.
    • Protection: the presence of polysaccharides in the hyphae improves mechanical resistance and thus protects the cells from external aggressions.

    The biological actions of Lentinan

    A review of the scientific literature reveals two facts: firstly, beta-glucans are among the compounds most studied by the scientific community; secondly, this compound is the beta-glucan that has been most extensively studied. Various studies, whether in vitro, in vivo or clinical, are helping to shed light on the biological mechanisms of this compound.

    IMMUNOMODULATORY ACTION

    Research shows that lentinan plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system. By binding to various membrane receptors such as TLR2/4/6/9, Dectin-1, as well as the complement receptor CD11b, β-glucan activates signalling pathways such as MAPK-NFκB and Syk-PKC. These activations stimulate immunocytes such as NK cells, macrophages and T cells (see figure below).

     

    Since the 1980s, knowledge of the immunomodulatory mechanism has underpinned the use of lentinan in the Chinese and Japanese health systems for the treatment of certain ailments.

     

    In addition, other studies highlight the cytotoxic potential of this compound, although further clinical research is needed to investigate this further.

    HIFAS DA TERRA : BIOTECHNOLOGY COMPANY

    As a biotechnology company specialising in medicinal mushrooms, we pay particular attention to fungal extracts. For each of them, we are committed to highlighting the bioactive molecules of the mushrooms by clearly specifying them on our labels. For all our products including shiitake extracts, we specifically display the quantity present..

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