Excessive nitric oxide (NO) production is involved in cellular injury and possibly in the multistage process of carcinogenesis. In this study, we investigated the effect of organosulfur compounds (S-allyl cysteine, allyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide, allyl isothiocyanate, phenyl isothiocyanate, and benzyl isothiocyanate) that are found in allium or cruciferous vegetables on NO production in J774.1 macrophages activated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Diallyl disulfide, allyl, phenyl, and benzyl isothiocyanates inhibited NO production, as evaluated by nitrite formation at 25 microM. Allyl and benzyl isothiocyanates, the most active of the six organosulfur compounds, exhibited dose-dependent inhibition and had IC(50) values of 1.6 and 2.7 microM, respectively. Western blot analysis suggested that suppression of the induction of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) expression is responsible for the inhibition of NO production by allyl and benzyl isothiocyanates. In contrast, these isothiocyanates increased LPS-stimulated tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) release, suggesting their selective action on genes activated by LPS. Our results demonstrate that certain organosulfur compounds inhibit NO synthesis in LPS-activated macrophages, and the inhibitory effect may be a significant component of their anticarcinogenic activity.