Pelargonium sidoides radix extract EPs 7630 reduces rhinovirus infection through modulation of viral binding proteins on human bronchial epithelial cells

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 1;14(2):e0210702. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210702. eCollection 2019.


Bronchial epithelial cells are the first target cell for rhinovirus infection. The course of viral infections in patients with acute bronchitis, asthma and COPD can be improved by oral application of Pelargonium sidoides radix extract; however, the mechanism is not well understood. This study investigated the in vitro effect of Pelargonium sidoides radix extract (EPs 7630) on the expression of virus binding cell membrane and host defence supporting proteins on primary human bronchial epithelial cells (hBEC). Cells were isolated from patients with severe asthma (n = 6), moderate COPD (n = 6) and non-diseased controls (n = 6). Protein expression was determined by Western-blot and immunofluorescence. Rhinovirus infection was determined by immunofluorescence as well as by polymerase chain reaction. Cell survival was determined by manual cell count after live/death immunofluorescence staining. All parameters were determined over a period of 3 days. The results show that EPs 7630 concentration-dependently and significantly increased hBEC survival after rhinovirus infection. This effect was paralleled by decreased expression of the inducible co-stimulator (ICOS), its ligand ICOSL and cell surface calreticulin (C1qR). In contrast, EPs 7630 up-regulated the expression of the host defence supporting proteins β-defensin-1 and SOCS-1, both in rhinovirus infected and un-infected hBEC. The expression of other virus interacting cell membrane proteins such as MyD88, TRL2/4 or ICAM-1 was not altered by EPs 7630. The results indicate that EPs 7630 may reduce rhinovirus infection of human primary BEC by down-regulating cell membrane docking proteins and up-regulating host defence proteins.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / virology
  • Bronchi* / metabolism
  • Bronchi* / physiology
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells* / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells* / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells* / virology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelargonium / chemistry*
  • Picornaviridae Infections* / drug therapy
  • Picornaviridae Infections* / metabolism
  • Picornaviridae Infections* / pathology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / virology
  • Rhinovirus / metabolism*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Plant Extracts

Grant support

Prof. Tamm received an unrestricted Research grant of 46,957 Swiss Francs from Schwabe Pharma AG, Erlistrasse 2, CH-6403, Küssnacht am Rigi, Switzerland. The funder has no role in any of the study design, data collection and Analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.