Cordyceps militaris (bei-chong-chaw, northern worm grass) is a precious and edible entomopathogenic fungus, which is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a general booster for the nervous system, metabolism, and immunity. Saccharides, nucleosides, mannitol, and sterols were isolated from this fungus. The biological activity of C. militaris was attributed to the saccharide and nucleoside contents. In this study, the aqueous methanolic fraction of C. militaris fruiting bodies exhibited a significant anti-inflammatory activity. Bioactivity-guided fractionation of the active fraction led to the isolation of eight compounds, including one new and two known cerebrosides (ceramide derivatives), two nucleosides, and three sterols. Cordycerebroside A (1), the new cerebroside, along with soyacerebroside I (2) and glucocerebroside (3) inhibited the accumulation of pro-inflammatory iNOS protein and reduced the expression of COX-2 protein in LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 macrophages. This is the first study on the isolation of cerebrosides with anti-inflammatory activity from this TCM.
Keywords: Cordyceps militaris; LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 macrophages; anti-inflammatory; cerebrosides; fungal fruiting bodies.