Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators

J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 14;136(1):260-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.04.040. Epub 2011 Apr 28.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Cordyceps sinensis is a traditional Chinese medicine used for promotion of health, longevity and athletic power. However, the molecular mechanism for anti-fatigue activity and physical fitness has not yet been reported.

Aim of the study: The present study was conducted to evaluate the exercise endurance promoting activities of fungal traditional Chinese medicine (FTCM) Cordyceps sinensis cultured whole mycelium (CS) and the underlying mechanisms.

Materials and methods: CS was orally supplemented (200mg/kg body weight/day) to rats for 15days with or without swimming exercise along with exercise and placebo groups.

Results: Both CS supplementation and supplementation concurrent with exercise improved exercise endurance by 1.79- (P<0.05) and 2.9-fold (P<0.01) respectively as compared to placebo rats. CS supplementation concurrent with exercise also increased the swimming endurance by 1.32-fold (P<0.05) over the exercise group. To study the molecular mechanism of the observed effect, we measured the expression levels of endurance responsive skeletal muscle metabolic regulators AMPK, PGC-1α and PPAR-δ as well as endurance promoting and antioxidant genes like MCT1, MCT4, GLUT4, VEGF, NRF-2, SOD1 and TRX in red gastrocnemius muscle. Our results indicate that CS supplementation significantly upregulates the skeletal muscle metabolic regulators, angiogenesis, better glucose and lactate uptake both in exercised and non-exercised rats. We have also observed increased expression of oxidative stress responsive transcription factor NRF-2 and its downstream targets SOD1 and TRX by CS supplementation.

Conclusion: CS supplementation with or without exercise improves exercise endurance capacity by activating the skeletal muscle metabolic regulators and a coordinated antioxidant response. Consequently, CS can be used as a potent natural exercise mimetic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Cordyceps*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Mycelium
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / genetics
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Biological Products
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Txn1 protein, rat
  • Lactic Acid
  • Thioredoxins
  • Sod1 protein, rat
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1
  • Glucose