Cytochalasin is a byproduct of fungal metabolism. It is a form of mycotoxin, a toxic compound produced by fungi. There are a number of types of cytochalasin, identified with different letters like A, B, and C, and they act differently inside the body and when exposed to living tissue. These compounds are useful for certain kinds of laboratory research and are produced in purified form by scientific supply companies and some pharmaceutical manufacturers for research, development, and other activities.
These compounds bind to actin, a protein found inside cells. Actin plays a role in a number of key cellular functions. When cytochalasin binds to it, changing the structure of the protein, it interferes with these functions. Cells exposed to this mycotoxin might have trouble transporting nutrients over the cell membrane, and they could experience problems with reproducing, or might die, with the changed actin triggering cell death. The reaction depends on the kind of cell and the type of cytochalasin.
In medical testing, cytochalasin can sometimes be useful. It may be used for testing to identify certain compounds in the blood like fibrinogens in the blood of someone with a suspected clotting disorder. The compound can be tagged to make it easier for a technician to spot, allowing the technician to see how it interacts with a sample. In a healthy individual, it might find ample supplies of actin to bind to, while in people with certain disorders, less actin is present and the cytochalasin will become free-floating because it has nothing to attach to.
This compound cannot be safely administered to animals or plants, as it causes cell damage. It can be used in the process of researching individual tissue samples and can be employed in labs where the goal is to isolate certain compounds or types of tissue. Companies with cytochalasin manufacturing capabilities keep the compound isolated and make sure all packaging is clearly labeled so people understand the danger in handling it and use reasonable precautions to avoid ingesting or inhaling it.
Laboratories and other facilities with a need for cytochalasin can order various types from a manufacturer. The manufacturer will supply it in the needed quality, with containers labeled by batch. If there is a problem like suspected contamination, the manufacturer can use the batch number to narrow down the origins of the problem, issue a recall if needed, and address any quality control issues. Labs use control samples and similar tools to make sure their diagnostic tools are working properly.