Cordycepin: a bioactive metabolite with therapeutic potential

Life Sci. 2013 Nov 26;93(23):863-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2013.09.030. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


Cytotoxic nucleoside analogues were the first chemotherapeutic agents for cancer treatment. Cordycepin, an active ingredient of the insect fungus Cordyceps militaris, is a category of compounds that exhibit significant therapeutic potential. Cordycepin has many intracellular targets, including nucleic acid (DNA/RNA), apoptosis and cell cycle, etc. Investigations of the mechanism of anti-cancer drugs have yielded important information for the design of novel drug targets in order to enhance anti-tumor activity with less toxicity to patients. This extensive review covers various molecular aspects of cordycepin interactions with its recognized cellular targets and proposes the development of novel therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment.

Keywords: Cordycepin; Cordyceps; Mechanism; Metabolite; Therapeutic potential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cordyceps / chemistry
  • Deoxyadenosines / adverse effects
  • Deoxyadenosines / isolation & purification
  • Deoxyadenosines / pharmacology*
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Deoxyadenosines
  • cordycepin