A Systematic Review of the Biological Effects of Cordycepin

Masar Radhi, Sadaf Ashraf, Steven Lawrence, Asta Arendt Tranholm, Peter Arthur David Wellham, Abdul Hafeez, Ammar Sabah Khamis, Robert Thomas, Daniel McWilliams, Cornelia Huiberdina de Moor * (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We conducted a systematic review of the literature on the effects of cordycepin on cell survival and proliferation, inflammation, signal transduction and animal models. A total of 1204 publications on cordycepin were found by the cut-off date of 1 February 2021. After application of the exclusion criteria, 791 papers remained. These were read and data on the chosen subjects were extracted. We found 192 papers on the effects of cordycepin on cell survival and proliferation and calculated a median inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 135 µM. Cordycepin consistently repressed cell migration (26 papers) and cellular inflammation (53 papers). Evaluation of 76 papers on signal transduction indicated consistently reduced PI3K/mTOR/AKT and ERK signalling and activation of AMPK. In contrast, the effects of cordycepin on the p38 and Jun kinases were variable, as were the effects on cell cycle arrest (53 papers), suggesting these are cell-specific responses. The examination of 150 animal studies indicated that purified cordycepin has many potential therapeutic effects, including the reduction of tumour growth (37 papers), repression of pain and inflammation (9 papers), protecting brain function (11 papers), improvement of respiratory and cardiac conditions (8 and 19 papers) and amelioration of metabolic disorders (8 papers). Nearly all these data are consistent with cordycepin mediating its therapeutic effects through activating AMPK, inhibiting PI3K/mTOR/AKT and repressing the inflammatory response. We conclude that cordycepin has excellent potential as a lead for drug development, especially for age-related diseases. In addition, we discuss the remaining issues around the mechanism of action, toxicity and biodistribution of cordycepin.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5886
Number of pages34
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2021


  • cordycepin
  • natural product
  • signal transduction
  • AKT
  • mTOR
  • AMPK
  • ERK
  • inflammation
  • cell viability
  • review


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