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CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2019;18(8):609-620. doi: 10.2174/1871527318666190905152138.

Cordycepin Exerts Neuroprotective Effects via an Anti-Apoptotic Mechanism based on the Mitochondrial Pathway in a Rotenone-Induced Parkinsonism Rat Model.

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Department of Pharmacology, Medical College, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, 225009, China.
People's Hospital of Baoying, Baoying, 225800, China.
Shanghai Guobao Enterprise Development Center, Shanghai 201203, China.
Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine for Prevention and Treatment of Senile Diseases, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, 225009, China.
Jiangsu Co-Innovation Center for Prevention and Control of Important Animal Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses, Yangzhou, 225009, China.



Cordycepin (Cor), one of the major bioactive components of the traditional Chinese medicine Cordyceps militaris, has been used in clinical practice for several years. However, its neuroprotective effect remains unknown.


The purpose of the study was to evaluate the neuroprotective effects of Cor using a rotenoneinduced Parkinson's Disease (PD) rat model and to delineate the possible associated molecular mechanisms.


In vivo, behavioural tests were performed based on the 10-point scale and grid tests. Levels of dopamine and its metabolites in the striatum and the numbers of TH-positive neurons in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta (SNpc) were investigated by high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection and immunohistochemical staining, respectively. In vitro, cell apoptosis rates and Mitochondrial Membrane Potential (MMP) were analysed by flow cytometry and the mRNA and protein levels of Bax, Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Cytochrome c (Cyt-c), and caspase-3 were determined by quantitative real-time PCR and western blotting.


Showed that Cor significantly improved dyskinesia, increased the numbers of TH-positive neurons in the SNpc, and maintained levels of dopamine and its metabolites in the striatum in rotenone- induced PD rats. We also found that apoptosis was suppressed and the loss of MMP was reversed with Cor treatment. Furthermore, Cor markedly down-regulated the expression of Bax, upregulated Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, inhibited the activation of caspase-3, and decreased the release of Cyt-c from the mitochondria to the cytoplasm, as compared to those in the rotenone-treated group.


Therefore, Cor protected dopamine neurons against rotenone-induced apoptosis by improving mitochondrial dysfunction in a PD model, demonstrating its therapeutic potential for this disease.


Cordyceps militaris; Parkinson's disease; apoptosis; cordycepin; mitochondria; rotenone.

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