The Herbal Medicine Cordyceps sinensis Protects Pancreatic Beta Cells from Streptozotocin-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress

Can J Diabetes. 2016 Aug;40(4):329-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2016.02.001. Epub 2016 Apr 29.


Objectives: Our previous work found that Cordyceps sinensis (CS) improves the activity and secretory function of pancreatic islet beta cells. The objective was to observe a further possible role of CS in the protection of insulin-secreting cells.

Methods: A rat model of type 2 diabetes mellitus was developed with streptozotocin (STZ) and a high-energy fat diet (HFD). CS was administered in the successful model of rats with type 2 diabetes. After 4 weeks, the biochemistry index of blood samples was measured, and pathologic observation was performed by immunohistochemistry.

Results: In the rats with type 2 diabetes induced by a HFD and STZ, the levels of fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin were elevated, and the insulin sensitivity index was decreased. Pathologic examination found an increased number of apoptotic cells, an elevated protein expression of pro-apoptotic C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) and an increased c-Jun level by means of JNK phosphorylation, responsive to the endoplasmic reticulum stress of islet beta cells. With treatment by CS for 4 weeks, the elevated levels of both fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin in the rats with type 2 diabetes were significantly lower, and the decreased insulin sensitivity index was reversed. Compared to the control rats with type 2 diabetes, CS application significantly reduced the number of apoptotic cells and decreased protein expression of both CHOP and c-Jun.

Conclusions: The herbal compound CS could protect pancreatic beta cells from the pro-apoptotic endoplasmic reticulum stress induced by HFD-STZ. This suggests an alternative approach to treating type 2 diabetes.

Keywords: Cordyceps sinensis; cellules bêta des îlots de Langerhans; diabète sucré de type 2; endoplasmic reticulum stress; islet beta cell; rat; stress du réticulum endoplasmique; type 2 diabetes mellitus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cordyceps*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology*
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Herbal Medicine*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Rats


  • Lipids