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The present study is to investigate the effect of cordycepin on the expression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated microphages, as well as its mechanism of action.Mouse RAW264.7 cells were treated with different concentrations of cordycepin for 0–16 h. Western blotting was used to determine the expression of HO-1 and the phosphorylation of c-Src and the p47phox subunit of NADPH oxidase. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level was determined using H2DCFDA as fluorescent probe. Laser-scanning confocal microscopy was used to visualize the nuclear translocation of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was performed to measure the inhibitory effect of cordycepin on LPS-induced secretion of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6.Cordycepin induced the phosphorylation of c-Src and p47phox subunit of NADPH oxidase in RAW264.7 cells. Cordycepin increased the secretion of ROS by activating NADPH oxidase. In addition, cordycepin enhanced the expression of HO-1 in RAW264.7 cells in both dose- and time-dependent manners. Of note, elevated HO-1 expression induced by cordycepin treatment was regulated by c-Src/NADPH oxidase/ROS pathway. HO-1 expression induced by cordycepin was dependent on the activation of Nrf2, which was regulated by c-Src/NADPH oxidase/ROS. Cordycepin reduced LPS-induced secretion of proinflammatory cytokines through up-regulation of HO-1.The present study demonstrates that cordycepin induces the expression of HO-1 in RAW264.7 cells via c-Src/NADPH oxidase/ROS/Nrf2 pathway, and plays an anti-inflammatory role by inhibiting the secretion of cytokines from macrophages.Cordycepin induces the expression of heme oxygenase-1 in RAW264.7 cells.The mechanism may be c-Src/NADPH oxidase/ROS/Nrf2 pathway.Cordycepin inhibits the secretion of cytokines from macrophages.