Saikosaponin a inhibits influenza A virus replication and lung immunopathology Academic Article uri icon


  • Fatal influenza outcomes result from a combination of rapid virus replication and collateral lung tissue damage caused by exaggerated pro-inflammatory host immune cell responses. There are few therapeutic agents that target both biological processes for the attenuation of influenza-induced lung pathology. We show that Saikosaponin A, a bioactive triterpene saponin with previouslyestablished anti-inflammatory effects, demonstrates both in vitro and in vivo anti-viral activity against influenza A virus infections. Saikosaponin A attenuated the replication of three different influenza A virus strains, including a highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, in human alveolar epithelial A549 cells. This anti-viral activity occurred through both downregulation of NF-κB signaling and caspase 3-dependent virus ribonucleoprotein nuclear export as demonstrated by NF-κB subunit p65 and influenza virus nucleoprotein nuclear translocation studies in influenza virus infected A549 cells. Critically, Saikosaponin A also attenuated viral replication, aberrant pro-inflammatory cytokine production and lung histopathology in the widely established H1N1 PR8 model of influenza A virus lethality in C57BL/6 mice. Flow cytometry studies of mouse bronchoalveolar lavage cells revealed that SSa exerted immunomodulatory effects through a selective attenuation of lung neutrophil and monocyte recruitment during the early peak of the innate immune response to PR8 infection. Altogether, our results indicate that Saikosaponin A possesses novel therapeutic potential for the treatment of pathological influenza virus infections.

publication date

  • 2015