The researchers discovered in mushrooms an enzyme called POPB that create the mushroom's molecules that harbour missile-like proficiency in attacking and annihilating a single vulnerable target in the human liver.

These findings could lead to single-minded medicines with zero side effects, said co-lead author Jonathan Walton, professor of plant biology at the Michigan State University in US.

The team revealed how the enzyme contributes to the manufacture of chemical compounds known as cyclic peptides, a favourite molecule that pharmaceutical companies use to create new drugs.

"Mushrooms are prolific chemical factories, yet only a few of their peptides are poisonous," he added.

"These toxins survive the high temperatures of cooking and the acids of digestion, and yet they are readily absorbed by the bloodstream and go directly to their intended target. These are the exact qualities needed for an effective medicine," Walton said.

The enzyme POPB convert the toxins from their initial linear shape into cyclic peptides, fortress-like molecular circles comprising eight amino acids.

Harnessing the distinct properties of POPB will allow scientist to create billions of variant molecules, which can be tested against many different medical targets such as pathogenic bacteria and cancer, the researchers said.

For the study, the scientists worked with the mushroom species Amanita.

The study appeared in the journal Chemistry and Biology.

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