Summary: Nine volatile hydrocarbons, as well as methyl chloride, carbonyl sulphide and carbon disulphide, have been identified by mass spectrometry as products of in the compost used in commercial mushroom beds. Of these, only ethylene showed a pattern of production that could be correlated with developmental phases of the crop, high levels being produced whenever fruit bodies were rapidly enlarging.

In laboratory flask cultures, under controlled conditions, high levels of ethylene occurred whenever young fruit bodies entered the expansion phase. The enhanced rate of ethylene production continued over several days, irrespective of whether fruit bodies were removed. Production occurred within the colonized compost; no ethylene was evolved by the fruit body itself.

When the first fruit bodies expanded, either in beds or culture flasks, laccase levels in the compost fell and those of a β-1,4-glucanase (cellulase) rose. The enzyme switch occurred once only, during maturation of the first fruit bodies, whereas an elevated ethylene production was associated with each occasion when fruit body maturation took place.

The low level of laccase and high level of cellulase characterized the whole of the reproductive stage of , whereas the phasic periods of high ethylene production distinguished between periods of fruit body maturation and intervening resting periods.


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