Occurrence of peptide and clavine ergot alkaloids in tall fescue grass

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Science  25 Apr 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4749, pp. 487-489
DOI: 10.1126/science.3008328


Evidence is presented that ergot alkaloids are ubiquitous in tall fescue pastures infected with the clavicipitaceous fungal endophyte Sphacelia typhina (or Acremonium coenophialum). Ergopeptide alkaloids, predominantly ergovaline, constituted 10 to 50 percent of the total ergot alkaloid concentration, which was as high as 14 milligrams per kilogram in sheaths and 1.5 milligrams per kilogram in blades. Ergot alkaloid concentrations were substantially increased by application of large amounts (10 millimoles per liter) of potassium nitrate or ammonium chloride to infected plants in the greenhouse. The results indicate that ergot alkaloids are probably responsible for the toxicity to cattle of this common pasture and lawn grass and that ergotism-like toxicoses may be caused by clavicipitaceous fungi other than Claviceps.