Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has extensively and rapidly spread in the world, causing an outbreak of acute infectious pneumonia. However, no specific antiviral drugs or vaccines can be used. Phillyrin (KD-1), a representative ingredient of Forsythia suspensa, possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antiviral activities. However, little is known about the antiviral abilities and mechanism of KD-1 against SARS-CoV-2 and human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E).
The study was designed to investigate the antiviral and anti-inflammatory activities of KD-1 against the novel SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E and its potential effect in regulating host immune response in vitro.
The antiviral activities of KD-1 against SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E were assessed in Vero E6 cells using cytopathic effect and plaque-reduction assay. Proinflammatory cytokine expression levels upon infection with SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E infection in Huh-7 cells were measured by real-time quantitative PCR assays. Western blot assay was used to determine the protein expression of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) p65, p-NF-κB p65, IκBα, and p-IκBα in Huh-7 cells, which are the key targets of the NF-κB pathway.
KD-1 could significantly inhibit SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E replication in vitro. KD-1 could also markedly reduce the production of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1β, MCP-1, and IP-10) at the mRNA levels. Moreover, KD-1 could significantly reduce the protein expression of p-NF-κB p65, NF-κB p65, and p-IκBα, while increasing the expression of IκBα in Huh-7 cells.
KD-1 could significantly inhibit virus proliferation in vitro, the up-regulated expression of proinflammatory cytokines induced by SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E by regulating the activity of the NF-кB signaling pathway. Our findings indicated that KD-1 protected against virus attack and can thus be used as a novel strategy for controlling the coronavirus disease 2019.

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