A Schisandra-Derived Compound Schizandronic Acid Inhibits Entry of Pan-HCV Genotypes into Human Hepatocytes

Despite recent progress in the development of hepatitis C virus (HCV) inhibitors, cost-effective antiviral drugs, especially among the patients receiving liver transplantations, are still awaited. Schisandra is a traditional medicinal herb used to treat a range of liver disorders including hepatitis for thousands of years in China. To isolate the bioactive compounds of schisandra for the treatment of HCV infection, we screened a schisandra-extracts library and identified a tetracyclic triterpenoid, schizandronic acid (SZA), as a novel HCV entry inhibitor. Our findings suggested that SZA potently inhibited pan-HCV genotype entry into hepatoma cells and primary human hepatocytes without interfering virus binding on cell surface or internalization. However, virion-cell fusion process was impaired in the presence of SZA, along with the increased host membrane fluidity. We also found that SZA inhibited the spread of HCV to the neighboring cells, and combinations of SZA with interferon or telaprevir resulted in additive synergistic effect against HCV. Additionally, SZA diminished the establishment of HCV infection in vivo. The SZA target is different from conventional direct-acting antiviral agents, therefore, SZA is a potential therapeutic compound for the development of effective HCV entry inhibitors, especially for patients who need to prevent HCV reinfection during the course of liver transplantations.

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