Prenol, but Not Vitamin C, of Fruit Binds to SARS-CoV-2 Spike S1 to Inhibit Viral Entry: Implications for COVID-19

J Immunol. 2023 Jun 15;210(12):1938-1949. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2200279.


Fruit consumption may be beneficial for fighting infection. Although vitamin C is the celebrity component of fruit, its role in COVID-19 is unclear. Because spike S1 of SARS-CoV-2 binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on host cells to enter the cell and initiate COVID-19, using an α-screen-based assay, we screened vitamin C and other components of fruit for inhibiting the interaction between spike S1 and ACE2. We found that prenol, but neither vitamin C nor other major components of fruit (e.g., cyanidin and rutin), reduced the interaction between spike S1 and ACE2. Thermal shift assays indicated that prenol associated with spike S1, but not ACE2, and that vitamin C remained unable to do so. Although prenol inhibited the entry of pseudotyped SARS-CoV-2, but not vesicular stomatitis virus, into human ACE2-expressing HEK293 cells, vitamin C blocked the entry of pseudotyped vesicular stomatitis virus, not SARS-CoV-2, indicating the specificity of the effect. Prenol, but not vitamin C, decreased SARS-CoV-2 spike S1-induced activation of NF-κB and the expression of proinflammatory cytokines in human A549 lung cells. Moreover, prenol also decreased the expression of proinflammatory cytokines induced by spike S1 of N501Y, E484K, Omicron, and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2. Finally, oral treatment with prenol reduced fever, decreased lung inflammation, enhanced heart function, and improved locomotor activities in SARS-CoV-2 spike S1-intoxicated mice. These results suggest that prenol and prenol-containing fruits, but not vitamin C, may be more beneficial for fighting against COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid* / pharmacology
  • COVID-19*
  • Cytokines
  • Fruit
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Virus Internalization


  • Ascorbic Acid
  • prenol
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Cytokines

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants