Deciphering the antitumoral potential of the bioactive metabolites from medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus

J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Jan 30:265:113321. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113321. Epub 2020 Aug 30.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: The crude extracts of the medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus have been used as an effective traditional medicine to treat malicious tumors, gastritis, gastric ulcers, and other inflammatory conditions in Russia and most Baltic countries.

Aim of this review: Deciphering the antitumoral potential of the bioactive metabolites from I. obliquus and addressing its possibility to be used as effective agents for tumor treatment, restoration of compromised immunity and protection of gastrointestinal damage caused by chemotherapy.

Materials and methods: We analysed the current achievements and dilemma in tumor chemo- or immunotherapy. In this context, we searched the published literatures on I. obliquus covering from 1990 to 2020, and summarized the activities of antitumor, antioxidation, and immunomodulation by the polysaccharides, triterpenoids, small phenolic compounds, and hispidin polyphenols. By comparing the merits and shortcomings of current and traditional methodology for tumor treatment, we further addressed feasibility for the use of I. obliquus as an effective natural drug for tumor treatment and prevention.

Results: The diverse bioactive metabolites confer I. obliquus great potential to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis. Its antitumor activities are achieved either through suppressing multiple oncogenic signals including but not limited to the activation of NF-κB and FAK, and the expression of RhoA/MMP-9 via ERK1/2 and PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. The antitumor activities can also be achieved by inhibiting tyrosinase activity via PAK1-dependent signaling pathway or altering lysosomal membrane permeabilization through blocking tubulin polymerization and/or disturbing energy metabolism through LKB1/AMPK pathway. In addition, the metabolites from I. obliquus also harbour the potentials to reverse MDR either through selective inhibition on P-gp/ABCB1 or MRP1/ABCC1 proteins or the induction of G2/M checkpoint arrest in tumor cells of chemoresistant phenotypes mediated by Nox/ROS/NF-kB/STAT3 signaling pathway. In addition to the eminent effects in tumor inhibition, the metabolites in I. obliquus also exhibit immunomodulatory potential to restore the compromised immunity and protect against ulcerative damage of GI tract caused by chemotherapy.

Conclusions: I. obliquus possesses the potential to reduce incidence of tumorigenesis in healthy people. For those whose complete remission has been achieved by chemotherapy, administration of the fungus will inhibit the activation of upstream oncogenic signals and thereby prevent metastasis; for those who are in the process of chemotherapy administration of the fungus will not only chemosensitize the tumor cells and thereby increasing the chemotherapeutic effects, but also help to restore the compromised immunity and protect against ulcerative GI tract damage and other side-effects induced by chemotherapy.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Anti-metastasis; Antitumor potential; Immunomodulatory; Inonotus obliquus; Upstream oncogenic signals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Complex Mixtures / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Inonotus / chemistry*
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Russia


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Complex Mixtures