Cellular Immune Function Chemistry

Fungal metabolites have major immunomodulating effects. 

Polysaccharide-K, also known as PSK, is a proteoglycan found in several medicinal mushrooms.  The results obtained from a large number of published scientific studies and clinical trials show that PSK is a powerful immunomodulator capable of stimulating diverse immunological functions.

For instance, PSK can improve cancer survival by restoring and enhancing cellular immune functions in patients with depressed immunity due to radiation and/or chemotherapy or surgical stress after curative resection of cancer.

PSK does not interact with other drugs nor affect hepatic drug-metabolizing enzyme activities indicating that drug efficacy is not affected by PSK when used with other medications. PSK is most effective when combined with a front-line anticancer treatment regimen (chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery) for patients with many types of cancer. Randomized controlled clinical trials and meta-analysisshowed that overall survival and disease-free survival are improved in patients treated with adjuvant immunotherapy plus PSK.   PSK is also beneficial for maintaining general immune health with no reported adverse side effects.

They include effects like mitogenicity, and activation of immune effector cells, such as lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells, resulting in the production of cytokines, including interleukins, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interferon gamma.  One particular effect is the ability to selectively modulate the differentiation capacity of CD4 T cells to mature T helper 1 and or T helper 2 subsets.  These effects cause profound effects in response to disease states like chronic autoimmune T helper1 mediated or allergic T helper 2 mediated diseases, like HIV, listeriosis, tuberculosis, septic shock and cancer.   Also go to the inflammation mechanisms tab for more information about how the immune system reacts to trauma, diseases and wounds.

 Various metabolites from mushrooms, Beta-glucans, are reported to affect bone marrow cells, and to induce hematopoiesis.  Maitake, caused direct enhancement of the colony forming units, granulocytes/macrophages response of bone marrow cell’s progenitors and enhance recovery of the CFU-GM response after clinically induced hematopoietic suppression.

Treatment of macrophages with Reshi increased levels of IL-1B, TNF-a, IL-6 by 5.1, 9.8, and 29 fold respectively, than in control samples.

The bactericidal activity of maitake on splenetic T cells was also enhanced, with listeria infected cells by 2.6 times.

Excitingly, Shitake interacts with macrophages and related cells and results in the activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B, which sets off a series of reactions producing a variety of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, TNF-a, IL-1B, IL-10, IL-12, GM-CSF, IL-18, in a sequential manner. 

The methanol extract of Cordyceps inhibited IL-1B, TNF-a, NO and prostaglandins E2 (PGE2) in vitro and in vivo.  The extract inhibited these inflammatory mediators in LPS stimulated murine macrophage cell line  by suppressing gene expression of IL-1b, TNF-a, iNOS, and COX-2 through the inhibition of NF kappa beta activation.


Cristina Lill, Harry Wichers, and Huub Savelkoul, Anti-inflamatory and Immun-nomodulating properties of Fungal metabolites, Mediators Inflamm, 2005; 2005(2); 63-80

Reshetnikov, Wasser, Tan, Higher basidiomycota as a source of antitumor and immuno-stimulating polysaccharides.  Int J Med Mush. 2001;3(4);361-394

Borchers, Stern, Hackman, Mushroom, tumors, and immunity.  Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1999:221(4):281-293

Gao, Chan, Shou, Immunomodulating activities of Ganoderma, a mushroom with medicinal properties.  Food Rev Int.  2004:20:123-161

Li, Huang, Shang et al. The Chinese herbal medicine formula MSSM-002 suppresses allergic airway hyperactivity and modulates TH1/TH2 responses in a murine model of allergic asthma.  J Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2000;106(4):660-668

Hsieh, Hsu, Lin, Tsai, Oral administration of an edible mushroom derived protein inhibits the development of food allergic reactions in mice. Clin Exp Allergy. 2003:33(11);1595-1602 

Li, Zhang, Huang et al, Food allergy herbal FAHF-1 blocks peanut induced anaphylaxis in a murine model. J Allergy Clin Immunol.  2001:108(4):639-646

Nanba, Kodama, Schar, Turner.  Effects of Maitake glucan in HIV infected patients. Mycoscience. 2000;41:293-2

Ngai, Ng,, Lentinan, A novel and potent antifungal protein from Shiitake mushrooms with inhibitory effects on activity of human immunoodefieciency virus-1 reverse transcriptase and proliferation of leukemia cells. Life Sci 2003;73(26);3363-3374

 Markova, Drandarska, Nikolaeva Protective activity of lentinan in experimental tuberculosis.  Int Immunopharmecol. 2003;3(10-11):1557-1562


Morphological and genetic characterization of a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis fungus and its polysaccharide component possessing antioxidant property in H22 tumor-bearing mice.

Chen JZhang WLu TLi JZheng YKong L.Medical School, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, People's Republic of China.Cordyceps sinensis, one of the most precious traditional Chinese medicines, possesses the antitumor activity, antioxidant activity and the capability of modulating the immune system.  In the present study, a fungus strain G1 isolated from wild C. sinensis was identified and initially characterized. A phylogenetic tree was generated based on the sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of related fungi.  The analysis of ITS sequence showed that fungus G1 was clustered together with C. sinensis, Tolypocladium cylindrosporum and Tolypocladium inflatum in the phylogenetic tree.  Both the morphological character and the ITS sequence analysis establish that fungus G1 is one of the anamorph strains of C. sinensis and belongs to Tolypocladium genus.  Furthermore, the polysaccharide (PS) extracted from fungus G1 and its antioxidant activity on H22-bearing mice was investigated. H22 cells were hypodermically injected into the right oxter of each mouse after the ICR mice were treated with PS by means of gavage for 7 days.  Then the same administration process continued for 9 days.  At the end of the experiments, the tumor weight of each mouse was measured. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and malondialdehyde (MDA) level in mouse liver, brain and serum, as well as glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity in mouse liver and brain were assayed.  The results showed that the H22 tumor growth was significantly inhibited by PS. Moreover, PS significantly enhanced SOD activity of liver, brain and serum as well as GSH-Px activity of liver and brain in tumor-bearing mice. PS also significantly reduced the level of MDA in liver and brain of tumor-bearing mice.PMID: 16492382 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Related Articles·Effects of the exopolysaccharide fraction (EPSF) from a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis on immunocytes of H22 tumor bearing mice. [Fitoterapia. 2008] ·Mycelium cultivation, chemical composition and antitumour activity of a Tolypocladium sp. fungus isolated from wild Cordyceps sinensis. [J Appl Microbiol. 2006] ·Effects of exopolysaccharide fraction (EPSF) from a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis fungus on c-Myc, c-Fos, and VEGF expression in B16 melanoma-bearing mice. [Pathol Res Pract. 2005] ·ReviewCordyceps: a traditional Chinese medicine and another fungal therapeutic biofactory? [Phytochemistry. 2008] ·ReviewThe scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: part II. [J Altern Complement Med. 1998] » See Reviews... | » See All... 

Relation between Irofulven (MGI-114) systemic exposure and tumor response in human solid tumor xenografts.

Leggas MStewart CFWoo MHFouladi MCheshire PJPeterson JKFriedman HSBillups CHoughton PJ.Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.Irofulven is a novel, small molecular weight semisynthetic compound, derived from a family of mushroom toxins known as illudins. This DNA alkylating agent has a chemical structure unlike any other chemotherapeutic agent in clinical use. The molecule is currently being studied in several Phase I, II, and III trials. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the antitumor activity of Irofulven in a panel of 20 pediatric solid tumor xenografts and to relate the Irofulven systemic exposure, defined as area under the concentration time curve, to the antitumor dose associated with tumor regression in the tumor models. Irofulven was administered i.v. daily for 5 days with courses repeated every 21 days for a total of three cycles. The minimum effective dose of Irofulven causing objective regression (> or =50% volume regression) of advanced tumors was determined for each of 19 of 20 independently derived tumor models (12 brain tumors, 4 neuroblastomas, and 4 rhabdomyosarcomas). At the maximum tolerated dose for three cycles of treatment (4.6 mg/kg/day) objective regressions were determined in 14 of 18 tumor lines (78%). However, the dose-response relationship was acute. At 2 mg/kg only 3 of 15 tumors tested demonstrated objective regressions, and in 3 additional tumors volume regressions were not achieved at a higher dose level (3 mg/kg), hence were not additionally tested. After administering the maximum tolerated dose (tolerated for one or two cycles of treatment) of Irofulven, 7 mg/kg, to mice bearing sensitive and resistant human tumors plasma concentration-time profiles were determined. Tumors were highly sensitive to Irofulven, but the systemic exposure required for a significant rate of objective response in this panel of tumors is in excess of that achievable in patients at tolerable doses, using this schedule of drug administration.PMID: 12231547 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;31(9):1727-32. Links

Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells.

Mori KObara YHirota MAzumi YKinugasa SInatomi SNakahata N.Department of Cellular Signaling, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tohoku University, Aramaki, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Japan.Neurotrophic factors are essential to maintain and organize neurons functionally; thereby neurotrophic factor-like substances or their inducers are expected to be applied to the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

In the present study, we firstly examined the effects of ethanol extracts of four edible mushrooms, Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake), Pleurotus eryngii (Eringi), Grifola frondosa (Maitake), and Agaricus blazei (Himematsutake), on nerve growth factor (NGF) gene expression in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Among the four mushroom extracts, only H. erinaceus extract promoted NGF mRNA expression in a concentration-dependent manner.In addition, secretion of NGF protein from 1321N1 cells was enhanced by H. erinaceus extracts, and the conditioned medium of 1321N1 cells incubated with H. erinaceus extract enhanced the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells. However, hericenones C, D and E, constituents of H. erinaceus, failed to promote NGF gene expression in 1321N1 cells. The enhancement of NGF gene expression by H. erinaceus extracts was inhibited by the c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor SP600125. In addition, H. erinaceus extracts induced phosphorylation of JNK and its downstream substrate c-Jun, and increased c-fos expression, suggesting that H. erinaceus promotes NGF gene expression via JNK signaling. Furthermore we examined the efficacy of H. erinaceus in vivo. ddY mice given feed containing 5% H. erinaceus dry powder for 7 d showed an increase in the level of NGF mRNA expression in the hippocampus. In conclusion, H. erinaceus contains active compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis via activation of the JNK pathway; these compounds are not hericenones.PMID: 18758067 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;31(9):1727-32. Links