Boswellia serrata oleo-gum-resin and β-boswellic acid inhibits HSV-1 infection in vitro through modulation of NF-кB and p38 MAP kinase signaling

Phytomedicine. 2018 Dec 1;51:94-103. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2018.10.016. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


Background: Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), a highly contagious pathogen, is responsible for causing lifelong oral to genital infection in human. Boswellia serrata oleo-gum-resin possesses a strong traditional background of treating diverse skin ailments including infection but its effect on HSV-1 has not been examined yet.

Purpose: To exploit its potential, we aimed to explore the antiviral activity of methanol extract of B. serrata oleo-gum-resin (BSE) and one of its major constituent β-boswellic acid (BA) against HSV-1 along with the underlying mechanism of action involved.

Methods: BSE was subjected to RP-HPLC analysis to quantify the active constituent. Cytotoxicity (CC50) and antiviral activity were evaluated by MTT and plaque reduction assay, followed by the determination of median effective concentration (EC50). The mode of antiviral activity was assessed by time-of-addition assay and confirmed by reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR). Further, the expressions of various cytokines were measured by RT-PCR, while the proteins by Western blot.

Results: BSE and BA potently inhibited wild-type and a clinical isolate of HSV-1 (EC50 5.2-6.2 and 12.1-14.63 μg/ml), with nearly-complete inhibition (EC99) at 10 and 30 μg/ml, respectively. The inhibitory effect was significant at 1 h post-infection and effective up to 4 h. Based on target analysis we examined the inhibition of NF-κB, essential for virus replication, and observed significant down-regulation of NF-κB, and p38 MAP-kinase activation, with reduced expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, Interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6, involved in scheming NF-κB signaling.

Conclusion: Thus, our results support the ethnomedicinal use of BSE in skin infection by inhibiting HSV-1 through the modulation of NF-κB and p38 MAPK pathway.

Keywords: ATCC; American type culture collection; BA; BSE; Boswellia serrata; Boswellia serrata oleo-gum-resin extract; CC(50); DMEM; DMSO; Dimethyl sulfoxide; Dulbecco's modified minimum essential medium; EC(50); FBS; Fetal bovine serum; HBA; HBD; HSV; Herpes simplex virus; Hydrogen-bond acceptors; Hydrogen-bond donors; IL; Interleukin; MAPK; MW; Median cytotoxic concentration; Median effective concentration; Mitogen activated protein kinase; Molecular weight; NF-κB; Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells; PRA; Plaque reduction assay; RP-HPLC; RT-PCR; Reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography; Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction; TNF; Tumor necrosis factor; UNPD; United natural product database; p38; β-boswellic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Boswellia / chemistry*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / drug effects*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / virology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Resins, Plant / pharmacology*
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Plaque Assay
  • Virus Replication / drug effects
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Cytokines
  • NF-kappa B
  • Plant Extracts
  • Resins, Plant
  • Triterpenes
  • boswellic acid
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases