Dietary compounds that induce cancer preventive phase 2 enzymes activate apoptosis at comparable doses in HT29 colon carcinoma cells

J Nutr. 1999 Oct;129(10):1827-35. doi: 10.1093/jn/129.10.1827.


Dietary agents that induce glutathione S-transferases and related detoxification systems (Phase 2 enzyme inducers) are thought to prevent cancer by enhancing elimination of chemical carcinogens. The present study shows that compounds of this group (benzyl isothiocyanate, allyl sulfide, dimethyl fumarate, butylated hydroxyanisole) activated apoptosis in human colon carcinoma (HT29) cells in culture over the same concentration ranges that elicited increases in enzyme activity (5-25, 25-100, 10-100, 15-60 micromol/L, respectively). Pretreatment of cells with sodium butyrate, an agent that induces HT29 cell differentiation, resulted in parallel increases in Phase 2 enzyme activities and induction of apoptosis in response to the inducers. Cell death characteristics included apoptotic morphological changes, appearance of cells at sub-G1 phase on flow cytometry, caspase activation, DNA fragmentation and TUNEL-positive staining. The results suggest that dietary Phase 2 inducers may protect against cancer by a mechanism distinct from and in addition to that associated with enhanced elimination of carcinogens. If this occurs in vivo, diets high in such compounds could eliminate precancerous cells by apoptosis at time points well after initial exposure to chemical mutagens and carcinogens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Carcinogens / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Diet*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism*
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans


  • Carcinogens
  • Glutathione Transferase