Background and Purpose This study aimed to evaluate the anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) activity of andrographolide, a diterpenoid lactone extracted from Andrographis paniculata, and to identify the signalling pathway involved in its antiviral action. Experimental Approach Using HCV replicon and HCVcc infectious systems, we identified anti-HCV activity of andrographolide by measuring protein and RNA levels. A reporter activity assay was used to determine transcriptional regulation of anti-HCV agents. A specific inhibitor and short hairpin RNAs were used to investigate the mechanism responsible for the effect of andrographolide on HCV replication. Key Results In HCV replicon and HCVcc infectious systems, andrographolide time- and dose-dependently suppressed HCV replication. When combined with IFN-α, an inhibitor targeting HCV NS3/4A protease (telaprevir), or NS5B polymerase (PSI-7977), andrographolide exhibited a significant synergistic effect. Andrographolide up-regulated the expression of haeme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), leading to increased amounts of its metabolite biliverdin, which was found to suppress HCV replication by promoting the antiviral IFN responses and inhibiting NS3/4A protease activity. Significantly, these antiviral effects were attenuated by an HO-1-specific inhibitor or HO-1 gene knockdown, indicating that HO-1 contributed to the anti-HCV activity of andrographolide. Andrographolide activated p38 MAPK phosphorylation, which stimulated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-mediated HO-1 expression, and this was found to be associated with its anti-HCV activity. Conclusions and Implications Our results demonstrate that andrographolide has the potential to control HCV replication and suggest that targeting the Nrf2-HO-1 signalling pathway might be a promising strategy for drug development.
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