Without a vaccine, hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains a global medical and socio-economic burden, predisposing about 170 million carriers worldwide to end-stage liver diseases including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Although the recently developed direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) have revolutionized hepatitis C treatment, most of them are unsuitable for monotherapy due to risks of resistance, thus necessitating combination with interferon (IFN)-alpha, ribavirin, or additional DAAs. More importantly, the high cost associated with the DAAs restricts their accessibility to most parts of the world. Developing novel cost-effective anti-HCV therapeutics may help expand the scope of antivirals and treatment strategies against hepatitis C. Herein, we applied an activity-based and fraction-guided analysis of extracts from the medicinal plant Phyllanthus urinaria (P. urinaria), which yielded fraction 13 (F13) as possessing the most potent inhibitory activity against early viral entry of cell-culture HCV infection. Chemical analysis (silica gel chromatography followed by ESI LC-MS plus 1H and 13C NMR) of F13 identified loliolide (LOD), a monoterpenoid lactone, as a novel inhibitor of HCV entry. Specifically, LOD could efficiently inactivate HCV free virus particles, abrogate viral attachment, and impede viral entry/fusion, with minimal effect on viral replication/translation, particle production, and induction of type I IFN host antiviral immune response. ELISA-based binding analysis confirmed the monoterpenoid's ability in efficiently blocking HCV particle attachment to the host cell surface. Furthermore, LOD could inhibit infection by several genotypic strains of HCV. This is the first report characterizing P. urinaria and its bioactive compound LOD as potent HCV entry inhibitors, which merit further evaluation for development as candidate antiviral agents against hepatitis C.
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