Flu Fighters

Light-induced miRNA expression and heat-induced lysis in E. coli

About 50 % of humans infected by avian influenza (H5N1) from 2003 until 2015 have died worldwide. Until today there is no universal remedy for influenza infections.

The honeysuckle plant (Lonicera japonica) has been used against influenza infections in traditional chinese medicine for hundreds of years, but only last year the active compound, the microRNA 2911, has been identified [1]. The mechanism remains to be verified, but it seems to interfere with genes from most influenza A virus strains, inhibiting their replication. The authors of the paper coined the term "virological penicillin" for the molecule.

Our concept
The basic concept of our work.

While the traditional way of producing the compound is to grow the plant, dry the leaves, cook a bitter decotion from them and drink that decotion, we want to establish a biotechnological production in E. coli. The production shall furthermore be induced by light, for which we use the Cph8-EnvZ system.

After our bacteria have produced enough of the miRNA, we want them to lyse themselves after a heat-induction. We use the GroEL promoter for that in combination with a lysing cytotoxin called pezT.

After the bacteria have lysed themselves, the miRNA could in principle be extracted from the solution and applied as a drug against influenza A infections.

  1. Zhou Z, Li X, Liu J, et al. Honeysuckle-encoded atypical microRNA2911 directly targets influenza A viruses. Cell Res. 2015;25(1):39-49.

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