Glycyrrhizic acid as the antiviral component of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. against coxsackievirus A16 and enterovirus 71 of hand foot and mouth disease

Jingjing Wang, Xiaoqing Chen, Wei Wang, Yating Zhang, Ziying Yang, Yu Jin, Hui Ming Ge, Erguang Li, Guang Yang
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2013 May 2, 147 (1): 114-21

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: The radices of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. and herbal preparations containing Glycyrrhiza spp. have been used for thousands of years as an herbal medicine for the treatment of viral induced cough, viral hepatitis, and viral skin diseases like ulcers in China. Glycyrrhizic acid (GA) is considered the principal component in Glycyrrhiza spp. with a wide spectrum of antiviral activity.

AIM: The present study attempt to validate the medicinal use of Glycyrrhiza uralensis for hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) and further to verify whether GA is an active antiviral component in the water extract of Glycyrrhiza uralensis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Radices of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. were extracted with hot water. The chemical contents of the extract were profiled with HPLC analysis. The antiviral activity of the extract and the major components was evaluated against infection of enterovirus 71 (EV71) and coxsackievirus A16 (CVA16) on Vero cells. The cytopathic effect caused by the infection was measured with MTT assay. Infectious virion production was determined using secondary infection assays and viral protein expression by immunoblotting analysis.

RESULTS: The extract at 1000 μg/ml suppressed EV71 replication by 1.0 log and CVA16 by 1.5 logs. The antiviral activity was associated with the content of GA in the extract since selective depletion of GA from the extract by acid precipitation resulted in loss of antiviral activity. In contrast, the acid precipitant retained antiviral activity. The precipitant at a concentration of 200 μg/ml inhibited EV71 and CVA16 replication by 1.7 and 2.2 logs, respectively. Furthermore, GA dose-dependently blocked viral replication of EV71 and CVA16. At 3 mM, GA reduced infectious CVA16 and EV71 production by 3.5 and 2.2 logs, respectively. At 5mM, CVA16 production was reduced by 6.0 logs and EV71 by 4.0 logs. Both EV71 and CVA16 are members of Enterovirus genus, time-of-drug addition studies however showed that GA directly inactivated CVA16, while GA anti-EV71 effect was associated with an event(s) post virus cell entry.

CONCLUSIONS: This study validated the medicinal usefulness of radices Glycyrrhiza uralensis against the etiological agents of HFMD. In addition to the identification of GA as the antiviral component of Glycyrrhiza uralensis against EV71 and CVA16 infection, this study also reveals that GA inhibits EV71 and CVA16 with distinct mechanisms.

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