Uncovering the Molecular Mechanism of Anti-Allergic Activity of Silkworm Pupa-Grown Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body

Am J Chin Med. 2017;45(3):497-513. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X17500306. Epub 2017 Apr 2.


Cordyceps militaris has been widely used as an herbal drug and tonic food in East Asia and has also been recently studied in the West because of its various pharmacological activities such as antitumoral, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. In this study, we examined the molecular mechanism underlying the anti-allergic activity of ethanol extract prepared from silkworm pupa-cultivated Cordyceps militaris fruit bodies in activated mast cells. Our results showed that ethanol extract treatment significantly inhibited the release of [Formula: see text]-hexosaminidase (a degranulation marker) and mRNA levels of tumor necrosis factor-[Formula: see text] as well as interleukin-4 in RBL-2H3 cells. The cells were sensitized with 2,4-dinitrophenol specific IgE and then stimulated with human serum albumin conjugated with 2,4-dinitrophenol. Oral administration of 300[Formula: see text]mg/kg ethanol extract significantly ameliorated IgE-induced allergic reaction in mice with passive cutaneous anaphylaxis. Western immunoblotting results demonstrated that ethanol extract incubation significantly inhibited Syk/PI3K/MEKK4/JNK/c-jun biochemical cascade in activated RBL-2H3 cells, which activated the expression of various allergic cytokines. In addition, it suppressed Erk activation and PLC[Formula: see text] evocation, which would respectively evoke the synthesis of lipid mediators and Ca[Formula: see text] mobilization to induce degranulation in stimulated RBL-2H3 cells. A compound, identified as [Formula: see text]-sitostenone, was shown to inhibit [Formula: see text]-hexosaminidase secretion from activated mast cells. Our study demonstrated that ethanol extract contained the ingredients, which could inhibit immediate degranulation and de novo synthesis of allergic lipid mediators and cytokines in activated mast cells.

Keywords: Allergy; Cordyceps militaris; IgE Antibody; JNK; Passive Cutaneous Anaphylaxis (PCA).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / isolation & purification*
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bombyx* / chemistry
  • Bombyx* / microbiology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Degranulation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cordyceps* / chemistry
  • Cordyceps* / growth & development
  • Cordyceps* / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Larva* / chemistry
  • Larva* / microbiology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • beta-N-Acetylhexosaminidases / metabolism


  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-4
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • beta-N-Acetylhexosaminidases
  • Calcium