Protective effect of an alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist against enterovirus 71 infection in neuronal cells

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Enterovirus 71, as one of the dominant pathogens associated with severe hand, foot, and mouth disease, has been well reported to trigger severe neurological symptoms among young children over the last decade, particularly among children in the Asia-Pacific region. To date, no effective antiviral agent has been developed for the treatment of severe enterovirus 71 infection. PNU-282987, a selective alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) agonist, has been reported to have a neuroprotective effect by participating in inflammatory regulation in previous studies. Therefore, in the present study, we aimed to assess the cell-protective effect of PNU-282987 against enterovirus 71 infection in neuronal cells, and to discuss potential mechanisms underlying this cell-protective effect in order to elucidate the potential impact of such agonists in the treatment of neurotropic viral infection. We observed that treatment with PNU-282987 improved cell viability and inhibited viral replication in enterovirus 71-infected SH-SY5Y cells. Further investigation revealed that inhibition of enterovirus 71 production by PNU-282987 is likely associated with events of RNA replication, and that increased levels of INF mRNA and its downstream antiviral proteins stimulated by the JAK-STAT2 pathway may contribute to the antiviral effect of PNU-282987. Moreover, our findings suggest that both the antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of PNU-282987 may contribute to the neural protective effect of the drug in enterovirus 71-infected cells. Taken together, the results suggest that selective α7nAChR agonists may represent viable candidates for future therapeutic treatment of severe enterovirus 71 infection, and for other cases of neurotropic viral infection.

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