Cordyceps militaris, a caterpillar-grown traditional medicinal mushroom, produces an important bioactive compound, cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine). Cordycepin is reported to possess many pharmacological activities including immunological stimulating, anti-cancer, anti-virus and anti-infection activities. The molecular mechanisms of cordycepin on pharmacological and biochemical actions of macrophages in inflammation have not been clearly elucidated yet. In the present study, we tested the role of cordycepin on the anti-inflammation cascades in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophage cells. In LPS-activated macrophage, nitric oxide (NO) production was inhibited by butanol fraction of C. militaris and the major component of C. militaris butanol faction was identified as cordycepin by high performance liquid chromatography. To investigate the mechanism by which cordycepin inhibits NO production and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression, we examined the activation of Akt and MAP kinases in LPS-activated macrophage. Cordycepin markedly inhibited the phosphorylation of Akt and p38 in dose-dependent manners in LPS-activated macrophage. Moreover, cordycepin suppressed tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) expression, IκB alpha phosphorylation, and translocation of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB). The expressions of cycloxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) were significantly decreased in RAW 264.7 cell by cordycepin. Taken together, these results suggest that cordycepin inhibits the production of NO production by down-regulation of iNOS and COX-2 gene expression via the suppression of NF-κB activation, Akt and p38 phosphorylation. Thus, cordycepin may provide a potential therapeutic approach for inflammation-associated disorders.
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