Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica Thunb) is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with an antipathogenic activity. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that are ubiquitously expressed in cells. Endogenous miRNA may function as an innate response to block pathogen invasion. The miRNA expression profiles of both mice and humans after the ingestion of honeysuckle were obtained. Fifteen overexpressed miRNAs overlapped and were predicted to be capable of targeting three viruses: dengue virus (DENV), enterovirus 71 (EV71) and SARS-CoV-2. Among them, let-7a was examined to be capable of targeting the EV71 RNA genome by reporter assay and Western blotting. Moreover, honeysuckle-induced let-7a suppression of EV71 RNA and protein expression as well as viral replication were investigated both in vitro and in vivo. We demonstrated that let-7a targeted EV71 at the predicted sequences using luciferase reporter plasmids as well as two infectious replicons (pMP4-y-5 and pTOPO-4643). The suppression of EV71 replication and viral load was demonstrated in two cell lines by luciferase activity, RT-PCR, real-time PCR, Western blotting and plaque assay. Furthermore, EV71-infected suckling mice fed honeysuckle extract or inoculated with let-7a showed decreased clinical scores and a prolonged survival time accompanied with decreased viral RNA, protein expression and virus titer. The ingestion of honeysuckle attenuates EV71 replication and related pathogenesis partially through the upregulation of let-7a expression both in vitro and in vivo. Our previous report and the current findings imply that both honeysuckle and upregulated let-7a can execute a suppressive function against the replication of DENV and EV71. Taken together, this evidence indicates that honeysuckle can induce the expression of let-7a and that this miRNA as well as 11 other miRNAs have great potential to prevent and suppress EV71 replication.
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