Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and Huangqi (Astragalus membranaceus) Suppress SARS-CoV-2 Entry and COVID-19 Related Cytokine Storm in Vitro

Yuan Chieh Yeh, Ly Hien Doan, Zi Yi Huang, Li Wei Chu, Tzu Hau Shi, Ying Ray Lee, Cheng Tao Wu, Chao-Hsiung Lin, Shu Tuan Chiang, Hui Kang Liu, Tsung Hsien Chuang, Yueh Hsin Ping*, Hsiao Sheng Liu*, Chi Ying F. Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


COVID-19 is threatening human health worldwide but no effective treatment currently exists for this disease. Current therapeutic strategies focus on the inhibition of viral replication or using anti-inflammatory/immunomodulatory compounds to improve host immunity, but not both. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) compounds could be promising candidates due to their safety and minimal toxicity. In this study, we have developed a novel in silico bioinformatics workflow that integrates multiple databases to predict the use of honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and Huangqi (Astragalus membranaceus) as potential anti-SARS-CoV-2 agents. Using extracts from honeysuckle and Huangqi, these two herbs upregulated a group of microRNAs including let-7a, miR-148b, and miR-146a, which are critical to reduce the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, these herbs suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6 or TNF-α, which were both identified in the cytokine storm of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of COVID-19 death. Furthermore, both herbs partially inhibited the fusion of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-transfected BHK-21 cells with the human lung cancer cell line Calu-3 that was expressing ACE2 receptors. These herbs inhibited SARS-CoV-2 Mpro activity, thereby alleviating viral entry as well as replication. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that honeysuckle and Huangqi have the potential to be used as an inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 virus entry that warrants further in vivo analysis and functional assessment of miRNAs to confirm their clinical importance. This fast-screening platform can also be applied to other drug discovery studies for other infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number765553
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • honeysuckle
  • Huangqi
  • let-7a
  • microRNA
  • mir-146a
  • miR-148b
  • SARS-CoV-2


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