Pharmacognosy Magazine

: 2015  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 43  |  Page : 477--485

A direct protein kinase B-targeted anti inflammatory activity of cordycepin from artificially cultured fruit body of Cordyceps militaris

Ju Young Yoon1, Ji Hye Kim1, Kwang-Soo Baek1, Geum Soog Kim2, Seung Eun Lee2, Dae Young Lee2, Je Hun Choi2, Seung Yu Kim2, Hyun Bong Park3, Gi-Ho Sung2, Kang Ro Lee3, Jae Youl Cho1, Hyung Jun Noh2,  
1 Department of Genetic Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Korea
2 Department of Herbal Crop Research, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, RDA, Eumseoung 369 873, Korea
3 Department of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 440 746, Korea

Correspondence Address:
Hyung Jun Noh
Department of Herbal Crop Research, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, RDA, Eumseoung 369 873
Jae Youl Cho
Department of Genetic Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 440 746


Background: Cordyceps militaris is one of well-known medicinal mushrooms with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-obesity activities. Objective: The objective of the following study is to isolate chemical components from the ethanol extract (Cm-EE) from Cordyceps militaris and to evaluate their anti-inflammatory activities. Materials and Methods: Column chromatographic separation was performed and anti-inflammatory roles of these compounds were also examined by using NO production and protein kinase B (AKT) activity assays. Results: From Cm-EE, 13 constituents, including trehalose (1), cordycepin (2), 6-hydroxyethyladenosine (3), nicotinic amide (4), butyric acid (5), β-dimorphecolic acid (6), α-dimorphecolic acid (7), palmitic acid (8), linoleic acid (9), cordycepeptide A (10), 4-(2-hydroxy-3-((9E,12E)-octadeca-9,12-dienoyloxy)propoxy)-2-(trimethylammonio)butanoate (11), 4-(2-hydroxy-3-(palmitoyloxy)propoxy)-2-(trimethylammonio)butanoate (12), and linoleic acid methyl ester (13) were isolated. Of these components, compound 2 displayed a significant inhibitory effect on NO production in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated RAW264.7 cells. Furthermore, this compound strongly and directly suppressed the kinase activity of AKT, an essential signalling enzyme in LPS-induced NO production, by interacting with its ATP binding site. Conclusion: C. militaris could have anti-inflammatory activity mediated by cordycepin-induced suppression of AKT.

How to cite this article:
Yoon JY, Kim JH, Baek KS, Kim GS, Lee SE, Lee DY, Choi JH, Kim SY, Park HB, Sung GH, Lee KR, Cho JY, Noh HJ. A direct protein kinase B-targeted anti inflammatory activity of cordycepin from artificially cultured fruit body of Cordyceps militaris.Phcog Mag 2015;11:477-485

How to cite this URL:
Yoon JY, Kim JH, Baek KS, Kim GS, Lee SE, Lee DY, Choi JH, Kim SY, Park HB, Sung GH, Lee KR, Cho JY, Noh HJ. A direct protein kinase B-targeted anti inflammatory activity of cordycepin from artificially cultured fruit body of Cordyceps militaris. Phcog Mag [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Aug 18 ];11:477-485
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Full Text


Cordyceps militaris (Clavicipitaceae) is a type of medicinal mushroom with various beneficial activities such as increasing the vitality, stamina, and endurance of the body. More importantly, because of the curative effects of this mushroom on numerous diseases, such as eczema, skin diseases, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and tuberculosis, it has been prescribed for a long time in many different countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. Through systematic research, a large amount of information on its chemical ingredients (which include cordycepin, militarin, 3,6 dihydroxydecanolide, cordycepic acid, and cordyheptapeptide) and its wide range of pharmacological activities (including anti inflammatory, anti oxidative, anti tumourigenic, anti hyperglycaemic, anti apoptotic, immunomodulatory, nephroprotective, and hepatoprotective effects) have been revealed.[1][2][3]

In spite of the large number of beneficial roles of this mushroom, development of C. militaris as a nutraceutical remedy was limited due to restrictions in the harvested amount of this mushroom. However, many different culture methods aimed at increasing the cultivation amount of C. militaris have been designed. Our group has also tried to develop new cultivation methods with brown rice to produce artificially cultivated fruit bodies of this mushroom [[Figure 1]a]. Additionally, we have reported several pharmacological activities of this mushroom, including platelet aggregation and macrophage mediated inflammatory reaction. Because phytochemical studies with artificially cultivated fruit bodies of C. militaris have not been fully carried out, isolation, structure determination, and anti inflammatory activities of the compounds from a 70% ethanol extract (EE) of C. militaris fruit bodies are described in this study.{Figure 1}



Artificially cultivated C. militaris [[Figure 1]a] was purchased from Mush Tech (Gangwon do, Korea). C. militaris was identified by Prof. Jae Mo Sung (Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, Korea). A voucher specimen (Registration number: RDA NHJ 312 Cm EE) was deposited in the herbarium at National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science (RDA, Eumsung, Korea). Lipopolysaccharide (LPS, Escherichia coli 0111:B4), staurosporin (Stau: Purity >95%), and (3 4,5 dimethylthiazol 2 yl) 2,5 diphenyltetrazolium bromide, a tetrazole (MTT), were purchased from Sigma Chemical Co. (St. Louis, MO). LY294002 (LY: Purity >95%) and Wortmannin (Wort: Purity >95%), PI3K inhibitors, were obtained from Calbiochem (La Jolla, CA). The luciferase construct containing binding promoters for NF κB was gift from Prof. Chung, Hae Young (Pusan National University, Pusan, Korea). Antibodies against inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase (COX) 2, and β-actin were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology (Santa Cruz, CA). Fetal bovine serum (FBS) and RPMI 1640 were obtained from GIBCO (Grand Island, NY). RAW264.7 and HEK293 cells were purchased from ATCC (Rockville, MD). All of the other chemicals were purchased from Sigma. GFP fused wild type (WT) protein kinase B construct (GFP Akt WT) and its mutant form (GFP Akt C310A) were used as reported previously.[4]

General experimental procedures

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra were measured on a Varian UNITY INOVA 500 spectrometer or on a Bruker AMX 500 spectrometer operating at 500 MHz for 1H NMR and 125 MHz for 13C NMR with chemical shifts given in ppm (δ). Electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (ESI MS) was measured on an Agilent 1100 liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) spectrometer with a Phenomenex Luna C18 analytical column (5 μm, 4.6 × 100 mm). The high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) apparatus (Waters Alliance series 2795 system) was composed of a vacuum degasser, a quaternary pump, a photodiode array detector, an auto injector, and a column compartment with a thermostat. Flash and open column chromatography was carried out on Merck silica gel 60 (70–230 mesh). Reversed phase HPLC was performed on a Gilson 321 pump system using Phenomenex Luna C18 column (10 μm, 10 × 250 mm) with a flow rate of 4 ml/min or 2 ml/min.

Extraction and isolation

Dried and powdered fresh fruiting bodies of C. militaris (1.0 kg) were extracted with 70% EtOH to prepare the Cm EE. The powder was then treated with 100% MeOH (three times, each with 10 l) using a reflux apparatus that yielded a crude extracts (402 g) upon removal of the solvent in vacuo. The ethyl acetate layer (600 mg) was subjected to a C18 sepak chromatography eluting with step gradients of 20% (220 mg), 40% (130 mg), 60% (100 mg), 80% (60 mg), and 100% MeOH (40 mg) in H2O, successively. The 20% MeOH fraction (220 mg) was separated by reversed phase HPLC (Phenomenex Luna 10 μm C18 (2), [10 × 250 mm, 4 ml/min, UV 210 nm detection]) using a gradient solvent system from 10% to 100% acetonitrile over 60 min to afford compound 1 (tR = 3 min, 5 mg) and compound 2 (tR = 6.5 min, 3 mg). The 40% MeOH fraction (130 mg), contained the compound 3 and 4, was separated by reversed-phase HPLC (Phenomenex Luna 10 μm C18 (2), [10 × 250 mm, 4 ml/min, UV 210 nm detection]) using a gradient solvent system from 10% to 100% acetonitrile over 60 min. Compound 3 and 4 were finally purified by reversed phase HPLC (Phenomenex Luna 10 μm C18 (2) column [10 × 250 mm, 2 ml/min, UV 254 nm detection]) with 10% methanol isocratic condition to yield 1.5 mg (tR = 8 min) and 1 mg (tR = 6 min), respectively. The methylene chloride crude extract (1.5 g) was fractionated on a silica gel (230–400 mesh) column and eluted with CH2Cl2 MeOH (100:1 → 1:1, gradient system) to yield 10 fractions (MF1 MF10). The MF1 sub fraction (400 mg) was purified by preparative C18 HPLC (10–100% acetonitrile in water for 60 min, 4 ml/min, 205 nm) to yield 13 (tR = 55 min, 1.5 mg). The sub fraction MF4 (250 mg) was purified by separation with preparative C18 HPLC (10–100% acetonitrile in water for 60 min, 4 ml/min, 210 nm) to yield 5 (2 mg), 8 (2.5 mg), 9 (5 mg), and 10 (2 mg) (tR = 20 min, 57 min, 60 min, and 45 min, respectively). The compounds 6 and 7, which were isolated as cis trans mixture (3 mg), were also isolated from sub fraction M7 by preparative C18 HPLC (10–100% acetonitrile in water for 60 min, 4 ml/min, 240 nm). The MF10 sub fraction (150 mg) was chromatographed on C18 sepak (230 400 mesh) column, and eluted with water and methanol (60%→100% methanol) to yield three fractions (MF1060, MF1080, and MF10100). The fraction MF10100 was purified by preparative C18 HPLC (10–100% acetonitrile in water for 60 min, 4 ml/min, 205 nm) to yield 11 (tR = 45 min, 1.5 mg) and 12 (tR = 47 min, 1.0 mg). The tested compounds were demonstrated to be pure as evidenced by NMR and HPLC analyses (purity ≥95%).

Spectral and physicochemical data

Trehalose (1)

1H NMR (500 MHz, D2O) δ 5.02 (1H, d, J = 3.8 Hz, H 1), 3.47 (1H, dd, J = 10.0, 3.8 Hz, H 2), 3.64 (1H, m, H 3), 3.27 (1H, t, J = 9.5 Hz, H 4), 3.67 (1H, m, H 5), 3.67 (1H, m, H 6a), 3.58 (1H, dd, J = 12.0, 5.0 Hz, H 6b); 13C NMR (125 MHz, D2O) d 93.1 (C 1), 70.8 (C 2), 72.3 (C 3), 69.5 (C 4), 71.9 (C 5), 60.3 (C 6); ESIMS m/z 365 [M + Na]+.

Cordycepin (2)

1H NMR (500 MHz, D2O) δ 8.09 (1H, s, H-8), 7.97 (1H, s, H-2), 5.84 (1H, d, J = 2.2 Hz, H-1´), 4.62 (1H, m, H-2´), 4.44 (1H, m, H-4´), 3.74 (1H, dd, J = 12.7, 2.7 Hz, H-5´), 3.53 (1H, dd, J = 12.7, 4.5 Hz, H-5´), 2.12 (1H, ddd, J = 14.7, 8.9, 5.9 Hz, H 3´), 2.01 (1H, ddd, J = 13.8, 6.5, 3.2 Hz, H 3´); 13C NMR (125 MHz, D2O) d 155.3 (C-4), 152.3 (C-2), 149.0 (C-6), 139.6 (C-8), 119.6 (C-5), 90.7 (C-1´), 81.1 (C-4´), 74.8 (C-2´), 62.5 (C-5´), 33.0 (C-3´); ESIMS m/z 252 [M + H]+.

N6 (2 Hydroxyethyl) adenosine (3)

Colourless gum; 1H NMR (500 MHz, D2O) δ 8.09 (1H, s, H-8), 8.04 (1H, s, H-2), 5.87 (1H, d, J = 5.6 Hz, H-1´), 4.61 (1H, t, J = 5.6 Hz, H-2´), 4.24 (1H, m, H 4´), 4.11 (1H, m, H-3´), 3.73 (1H, dd, J = 12.9, 3.6 Hz, H-5´), 3.67 3.65 (5H, m, H 5´, H-9, H-10); ESIMS m/z 312 [M + H]+.

Nicotinic amide (4)

White powder; 1H NMR (500 MHz, D2O) δ 8.70 (1H, s, H 6), 8.49 (1H, d, J = 5.0 Hz, H-2), 8.01 (1H, d, J = 8.0 Hz, H-4), 7.37 (1H, m, H- 3); 13C NMR (125 MHz, D2O) δ 170.6 (C-7), 151.6 (C-6), 147.4 (C-2), 136.3 (C-4), 129.1 (C-5), 124.0 (C-3); ESIMS m/z 123 [M + H]+.

Butyric acid (5)

1H NMR (500 MHz, CD3OD) δ 2.27 (2H, t, J = 15.0 Hz, H-2), 1.63 (2H, dq, J = 15.0, 8.0 Hz, H-3), 0.96 (3H, t, J = 8.0 Hz, H- 4); 13C NMR (125 MHz, CD3OD) δ 176.1 (C-1), 35.4 (C-2), 18.0 (C-3), 12.6 (C-4).

β-Dimorphecolic acid (6)

1H NMR (500 MHz, CDCl3) δ 0.89 (3H, t, J = 7.0, H-18), 1.32 (14H, m, H-4, H-5, H-6, H-7, H-15, H-16, H-17), 1.52 (2H, m, H-8), 1.62 (2H, m, H-3), 2.16 (2H, m, H-14), 2.36 (2H, t, J = 7.5 Hz, H-2), 4.11 (1H, dd, J = 13.0, 6.5 Hz, H-9), 5.58 (1H, dd, J = 15.0, 7.0 Hz, H-13), 5.71 (1H, dd, J = 15.0, 7.0 Hz, H-10), 6.03 (1H, dd, J = 15.0, 10.0 Hz, H-12), 6.18 (1H, dd, J = 15.0, 10.0 Hz, H-11); ESIMS m/z 319 [M + Na]+.

α-Dimorphecolic acid (7)

Cis and trans form mixture, ESIMS m/z 319 [M + Na]+.

Palmitic acid (8)

1H NMR (500 MHz, CDCl3) δ 2.36 (2H, t, J = 7.5 Hz, H-2), 1.64 (2H, dt, J = 15.0, 7.5 Hz, H 15), 1.38-1.22 (24H, m, H- 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14), 0.89 (3H, t, J = 7.0 Hz, H-16); 13C NMR (125 MHz, CDCl3) δ 180.0 (C-1), 34.0 (C-2), 31.9 (C-14), 29.6 (C- 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), 29.3 (C-5), 29.2 (C-13), 29.0 (C-4), 24.7 (C-3), 22.7 (C-15), 14.1 (C-16).

Linoleic acid (9)

Colourless oil; 1H NMR (500 MHz, CDCl3) δ 5.44 5.25 (4H, m, H-9, 10, 12, 13), 2.78 (2H, m, H-11), 2.35 (2H, m, H-2), 2.06 (4H, m, H-8, 14), 1.64 (2H, m, H-17), 1.44-1.22 (14H, m, H-3,4,5,6,7,15,16), 0.90 (3H, m, H-18); 13C NMR (125 MHz, CDCl3) δ 180.6 (C-1), 130.1 (C-9), 129.9 (C-13), 128.0 (C-10), 127.8 (C-12), 34.1 (C-2), 31.5 (C-16), 29.5 (C-6), 29.4 (C-15), 29.1 (C-7), 29.0 (C-5), 29.0 (C-4), 27.2 (C-14), 27.1 (C-8), 25.6 (C-11), 24.6 (C-3), 22.6 (C-17), 14.1 (C-18).

Cordycepeptide (10)

ESIMS m/z 488 [M + H]+.

Glycerfatty acid (11)

ESIMS m/z 498 [M + H]+.

Glycerfatty acid (12)

ESIMS m/z 474 [M + H]+.

Linoleic acid methyl ester (13)

1H NMR (500 MHz, CDCl3) δ 5.44-5.30 (4H, m, H-9, 10, 12, 13), 3.67 (3H, s, -OCH3), 2.78 (2H, m, H-11), 2.35 (2H, m, H-2), 2.05 (4H, m, H-8, 14), 1.62 (2H, m, H-3), 1.41 1.26 (14H, m, H 4,5,6,7,15,16,17), 0.89 (3H, m, H-18); 13C NMR (125 MHz, CDCl3) d 174.4 (C-1), 130.2 (C-9), 130.3 (C-13), 128.0 (C-10), 127.8 (C-12), 51.4 ( OCH3), 34.1 (C-2), 31.5 (C-16), 29.6 (C-6), 29.4 (C-15), 29.1 (C-7), 29.1 (C-5), 29.1 (C-4), 27.2 (C-14), 27.2 (C-8), 25.6 (C-11), 24.9 (C-3), 22.6 (C-17), 14.1 (C-18).

Cell culture

RAW264.7 and HEK293 cells were cultured with RPMI 1640 medium supplemented with 10% heat inactivated FBS, glutamine, and antibiotics (penicillin and streptomycin) at 37°C in a 5% CO2 atmosphere. For each experiment, the cells were detached with a scraper. Examination of cell densities of 2 × 106 cells/ml revealed that the proportion of dead cells was consistently < 1% using Trypan blue dye exclusion as the criteria for viability.

Nitric oxide and PGE2 production

After pre incubation of RAW264.7 cells (1 × 106 cells/ml) for 18 h, the cells were pre treated with Cm EE and its chemical ingredients for 30 min. The cells were then further incubated with LPS (1 μg/ml) for 24 h. The inhibitory effects of Cm EE and its chemical ingredients on NO and PGE2 production were determined by analyzing NO and PGE2 levels using the Griess reagent and an EIA kit, as described previously.[5],[6]

mRNA analysis by semi quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction

To evaluate cytokine mRNA expression levels, total RNA was isolated from the LPS treated RAW264.7 cells with TRIzol Reagent (Gibco BRL), according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The total RNA was stored at −70°C until use. Semi quantitative reverse transcriptase (RT) reactions were conducted as reported previously.[7],[8] The primers (Bioneer, Seoul, Korea) used are indicated in [Table 1].{Table 1}

Cell viability test

After pre incubation of RAW264.7 cells (1 × 106 cells/ml) for 18 h, Cm EE and its chemical ingredients were added to the cells and incubated for 24 h. The cytotoxic effects of Cm EE and its chemical ingredients were then evaluated by a conventional MTT assay, as reported previously.[9] Three hours prior to culture termination, 10 μL of a MTT solution (10 mg/ml in phosphate buffered saline, pH 7.4; PBS) was added, and the cells were continuously cultured until termination of the experiment. The incubation was halted by the addition of 15% sodium dodecyl sulfate into each well to solubilize the produced formazan.[10] The absorbance at 570 nm (OD570) was measured using a SpectraMax 250 microplate reader (BioTex, Bad Friedrichshall, Germany).

Immunoblotting analysis

HEK293 cells (5 × 106 cells/ml) were lysed in lysis buffer (20 mM Tris HCl, pH 7.4, 2 mM EDTA, 2 mM EGTA, 50 mM β-glycerophosphate, 1 mM sodium orthovanadate, 1 mM dithiothreitol, 1% Triton X 100, 10% glycerol, 10 μg/ml leupeptin, 10 μg/ml aprotinin, 10 μg/ml pepstatin, 1 mM benzimidine, and 2 mM hydrogen peroxide) for 30 min rotating at 4°C. The lysates were clarified by centrifugation at 16,000 × g for 10 min at 4°C. The soluble cell lysates were immunoblotted, and the total level of AKT was visualised as previously reported.[11]

Immunoprecipitation and in vitro kinase assay for protein kinase B

HEK 293 cells were placed on ice and extracted with lysis buffer as reported previously.[4] Lysates prepared from GFP AKT WT or GFP AKT C310A overexpressing cells was immunoprecipitated with anti GFP monoclonal antibody immobilized on protein G Sepharose (Amersham Biosciences). The kinase activity of the immunoprecipitated beads was measured with peptide substrate, Suntide (RRKDGATMKTFCGTPE), as reported previously.[4] The kinase activity of purified AKT1 enzyme was evaluated by the kinase profiler service from Millipore (Billerica MA) as reported previously.[4]

Statistical analysis

All of the data except [[Figure 1]a] and [Figure 2] are presented as the means ± standard mean of the error of three different experiments performed with three samples. For the statistical comparisons, these results were analyzed using an ANOVA/Scheffe’s post hoc test and a Kruskal–Wallis/Mann–Whitney test. A P < 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant. All of the statistical tests were performed using SPSS (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).{Figure 2}


After establishing a cultivation method to greatly increase production of C. militaris [[Figure 1]a], we sought to determine the pharmacological activities of the mushroom for later application to various purposes, such as development of functional food products, cosmetics, and new druggable compounds.[12] A 70% EE of C. militaris (Cm EE) was able to strongly inhibit the production of nitric oxide (NO) from LPS treated RAW264.7 cells up to 100 mg/mL [[Figure 1]b, left panel] without altering cell viability [[Figure 1]c]. Similarly, Cm EE dose dependently suppressed luciferase activity mediated by nuclear factor (NF) κB [[Figure 1]b, right panel], a representative inflammation regulatory transcription factor.[13] These results led us to employ column chromatography and HPLC to further investigate what types of compounds from the EE of C. militaris can attenuate inflammation [[Figure 2]a] and [[Figure 2]b]. As we expected, we isolated 13 different compounds from 6 fractions [[Figure 2]a] and [[Figure 2]b]. Through spectroscopic analysis, these compounds [[Figure 2]c] were identified as trehalose (1), cordycepin (2), 6 hydroxyethyladenosine (3), nicotinic amide (4), butyric acid (5), β-dimorphecolic acid (6), a dimorphecolic acid (7), palmitic acid (8), linoleic acid (9), cordycepeptide A (10), 4 (2 hydroxy 3 ((9E,12E) octadeca 9,12 dienoyloxy) propoxy) 2 (trimethylammonio) butanoate (11), 4 (2 hydroxy 3 (palmitoyloxy) propoxy) 2 (trimethylammonio) butanoate (12), and linoleic acid methyl ester (13) by comparison with their previously published spectroscopic data.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] Of these compounds, cordycepeptide A (10), 4 (2 hydroxy 3 ((9E,12E) octadeca 9,12 dienoyloxy) propoxy) 2 (trimethylammonio) butanoate (11), and 4 (2 hydroxy 3 (palmitoyloxy) propoxy) 2 (trimethylammonio) butanoate (12) were isolated for the first time from the C. militaris, indicating that these compounds could potentially serve as useful chemotaxonomic markers for this mushroom.

To confirm which of these components possess anti inflammatory activity, the suppressive activities of the 13 compounds on the production of NO and PGE2 and the expression of inflammatory genes such as iNOS, COX 2, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) a, and interleukin (IL) 6 were examined in LPS treated RAW264.7 cells.[21][22][23][24] We also evaluated the molecular target of the main active component using immunoprecipitated and purified enzyme.

Of 13 compounds, compound 2 showed the highest NO inhibitory activity at 5 and 10 mM, while other compounds (7 and 9) also significantly decreased NO production [[Figure 3]a] and [[Figure 3]b]. Furthermore, compound 2 dose dependently suppressed the release of NO and PGE2 [[Figure 4]a, left panel] and the expression of various inflammatory genes such as TNF-α, iNOS, COX 2, and IL 6 [[Figure 4]b], without altering the viability of RAW264.7 cells [[Figure 4]c], implying that the inhibitory activity of compound 2 is not due to its nonspecific pharmacological action. Meanwhile, standard compounds (L NAME and indomethacine) diminished the release of NO and PGE2 [[Figure 4]a, right panel], indicating that our experimental conditions were well established.{Figure 3}{Figure 4}

It has been reported that compound 2 (cordycepin) is capable of suppressing the phosphorylation of AKT,[25] an essential step for inducing inflammatory signaling for NF κB activation,[4] in LPS treated RAW264.7 cells. Therefore, we examined whether this compound can directly suppress the enzyme activity of AKT using an in vitro kinase assay. As we expected, compound 2 blocked immunoprecipitated AKT enzyme activity up to 85%, similar to the effect of hydroquinone [[Figure 5]a], a powerful thiolation inducing benzene metabolite with chemical reactivity.[4] In agreement with a previous report,[25] compound 2 also diminished p AKT levels [[Figure 5]b]. Unlike hydroquinone, this compound still maintained its suppressive activity in the kinase assay performed with mutant Akt (Akt C310A) with alanine at the cysteine 310 residue [[Figure 5]a], which is one of the allosteric sites affecting its kinase activity.[4] This indicates that compound 2 is not able to bind to this site. Instead, co treatment of compound 2 with staurosporin, a competitive inhibitor to the ATP binding site, indicated the possibility that cordycepin can also bind to the ATP binding site, since no additive or synergistic inhibitory activity was exhibited toward purified AKT even with co treatment of these two compounds [[Figure 5]c]. The importance of AKT in the NO production process in LPS treated RAW264.7 cells was also confirmed by treatment with PI3K/AKT inhibitors LY294002 (LY) and wortmannin (Wort). These compounds clearly diminished the level of NO produced by LPS exposure in RAW264.7 cells [[Figure 5]d]. Therefore, these results strong suggest that compound 2 is an active component in Cm EE with anti inflammatory effects associated with direct suppression of AKT.{Figure 5}

Cordycepin (compound 2) is well known major component identified in C. militaris, which has been received much attention because of its broad spectrum biological activities, such as anti cancer, antioxidant and anti inflammatory activities.[26][27][28] In fact, in our study, compound 2 was also revealed to inhibit inflammatory responses through the blockade of AKT [Figure 5]. Even though the possibility that cordyceptin can suppress AKT pathway by measuring its simple phosphorylation level,[25],[29] there was no direct evidence to prove this possibility. However, we apparently verified in detail that cordycepin can directly suppress AKT activity [[Figure 5]a]. Thus, cordyceptin blocked the AKT kinase activity by competing with ATP to ATP binding domain of AKT, indicating direct AKT regulatory role of cordyceptin. Because AKT is a critical molecule in numerous inflammatory responses,[4] our data seem to open further application of cordyceptin for the development of various functional products, such as, cosmetics, functional foods and new drugs to ameliorate various inflammation based symptoms.


Thirteen compounds were identified from the EE of C. militaris. Using phytochemical and pharmacological studies, compound 2 was found to be a major anti inflammatory compound in C. militaris with direct AKT inhibitory property. Therefore, further investigation will be conducted to evaluate its potential application using various in vivo inflammatory disease models such as gastritis, colitis, arthritis, and hepatitis, mediated by AKT.


This work was supported by the Rural Development Administration Grant by the Korean Government PJ008477, PJ008321.


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