Essential oils are commonly used as natural remedies in many areas of the world. However, studies investigating the effects of essential oils at the cellular and molecular level are lacking. This work was undertaken to evaluate the effects of essential oils on mRNA expression in human cells. The liver HepG2 cell line was treated with 31 different essential oils, and then assessed for gene expression changes using RNA-seq. Several well characterized transcription factors were identified as being differentially regulated upon general treatment with an essential oil. Additionally, genes and pathways unique to a particular essential oil, or subset of essential oils, were identified. Importantly, genes and pathways identified through this study suggest that essential oils induce pathways that have the potential to promote cell growth and self-defense, or induce cell death, depending on the context. Follow-up experiments further validating and verifying the biological activity of essential oils in multiple cell types need to be performed.
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