Cordyceps militaris, a traditional medicinal mushroom, produces the bioactive compound cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine). Although cordycepin has been shown to have pharmacological, immunological stimulating, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory activities, its activities and cellular mechanisms during microglial activation have yet to be elucidated. Thus, we evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of cordycepin on the production of inflammatory mediators in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated murine BV2 microglia. We also investigated the effects of cordycepin on LPS-induced nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) activation and on phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). After LPS stimulation, nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E₂ (PGE₂), and pro-inflammatory cytokine production was detected in BV2 microglia. However, we found that cordycepin significantly inhibited the excessive production of NO, PGE₂, and pro-inflammatory cytokines in a concentration-dependent manner without causing cytotoxicity. In addition, cordycepin suppressed NF-κB translocation by blocking IkappaB-α (IκB-α) degradation and inhibited the phosphorylation of Akt, ERK-1/2, JNK, and p38 kinase. Our results indicate that the inhibitory effect of cordycepin on LPS-stimulated inflammatory mediator production in BV2 microglia is associated with the suppression of the NF-κB, Akt, and MAPK signaling pathways. Therefore, cordycepin may be useful in treating neurodegenerative diseases by inhibiting inflammatory mediator production in activated microglia.
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