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Juglone alleviates pneumolysin-induced human alveolar epithelial cell injury via inhibiting the hemolytic activity of pneumolysin

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Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is an opportunistic pathogen responsible for several human diseases, including acute otitis media, pneumonia, sepsis and bacterial meningitis, and possesses numerous virulence factors associated with pneumococcal infection and pathogenesis. With the capacity to form pores in cholesterol-rich membranes, pneumolysin (PLY) is a key virulence factor of S. pneumoniae and causes severe tissue damage during pneumococcal infection. Juglone (JG), a natural 1,4-naphthoquinone widely found in the roots, leaves, woods and fruits of Juglandaceae walnut trees, inhibits PLY-induced hemolysis via inhibition of the oligomerization of PLY and exhibits minimal anti-S. pneumoniae activity. In addition, when human alveolar epithelial (A549) cells were co-cultured with PLY and JG, PLY-mediated cell injury was significantly alleviated. These results indicate that JG directly interacts with PLY to reduce the cytotoxicity of the toxin in human alveolar epithelial cells. Hence, JG is an effective inhibitor of PLY and protects lung cells from PLY-mediated cell injury. This study also provides the basis for the development of anti-virulence drugs for the treatment of S. pneumoniae infections.

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This work was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Grant 31602109) and the Project Funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Project No. 2016M591486).

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Correspondence to Jianfeng Wang.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Song, M., Lu, G., Li, M. et al. Juglone alleviates pneumolysin-induced human alveolar epithelial cell injury via inhibiting the hemolytic activity of pneumolysin. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 110, 1069–1075 (2017).

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  • Anti-virulence
  • Juglone
  • Pneumolysin
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae