Geranium and Lemon Essential Oils and Their Active Compounds Downregulate Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), a SARS-CoV-2 Spike Receptor-Binding Domain, in Epithelial Cells

Plants (Basel). 2020 Jun 19;9(6):770. doi: 10.3390/plants9060770.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), is a pandemic disease that has been declared as modern history's gravest health emergency worldwide. Until now, no precise treatment modality has been developed. The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, a host cell receptor, has been found to play a crucial role in virus cell entry; therefore, ACE2 blockers can be a potential target for anti-viral intervention. In this study, we evaluated the ACE2 inhibitory effects of 10 essential oils. Among them, geranium and lemon oils displayed significant ACE2 inhibitory effects in epithelial cells. In addition, immunoblotting and qPCR analysis also confirmed that geranium and lemon oils possess potent ACE2 inhibitory effects. Furthermore, the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis displayed 22 compounds in geranium oil and 9 compounds in lemon oil. Citronellol, geraniol, and neryl acetate were the major compounds of geranium oil and limonene that represented major compound of lemon oil. Next, we found that treatment with citronellol and limonene significantly downregulated ACE2 expression in epithelial cells. The results suggest that geranium and lemon essential oils and their derivative compounds are valuable natural anti-viral agents that may contribute to the prevention of the invasion of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 into the human body.

Keywords: ACE2; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; TMPRSS2; citronellol; geranium essential oil; lemon essential oil; limonene.