Food Enrichment with Glycyrrhiza glabra Extract Suppresses ACE2 mRNA and Protein Expression in Rats-Possible Implications for COVID-19

Nutrients. 2021 Jul 6;13(7):2321. doi: 10.3390/nu13072321.


Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a key entry point of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus known to induce Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We have recently outlined a concept to reduce ACE2 expression by the administration of glycyrrhizin, a component of Glycyrrhiza glabra extract, via its inhibitory activity on 11beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11betaHSD2) and resulting activation of mineralocorticoid receptor (MR). We hypothesized that in organs such as the ileum, which co-express 11betaHSD2, MR and ACE2, the expression of ACE2 would be suppressed. We studied organ tissues from an experiment originally designed to address the effects of Glycyrrhiza glabra extract on stress response. Male Sprague Dawley rats were left undisturbed or exposed to chronic mild stress for five weeks. For the last two weeks, animals continued with a placebo diet or received a diet containing extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra root at a dose of 150 mg/kg of body weight/day. Quantitative PCR measurements showed a significant decrease in gene expression of ACE2 in the small intestine of rats fed with diet containing Glycyrrhiza glabra extract. This effect was independent of the stress condition and failed to be observed in non-target tissues, namely the heart and the brain cortex. In the small intestine we also confirmed the reduction of ACE2 at the protein level. Present findings provide evidence to support the hypothesis that Glycyrrhiza glabra extract may reduce an entry point of SARS-CoV-2. Whether this phenomenon, when confirmed in additional studies, is linked to the susceptibility of cells to the virus requires further studies.

Keywords: COVID-19; aldosterone; angiotensin converting enzyme; glycyrrhizin; mineralocorticoid receptor; toll like receptor 4.

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Glycyrrhiza*
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Biosynthesis / drug effects*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2