Chemoprevention by isothiocyanates and their underlying molecular signaling mechanisms

Mutat Res. 2004 Nov 2;555(1-2):191-202. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.05.024.


Chemoprevention is a cancer preventive strategy to inhibit, delay or reverse carcinogenesis using naturally occurring or synthetic chemical agents. Numerous epidemiological studies as well as experimental animal studies clearly demonstrate that high intake of cruciferous vegetables protects against tumorigenesis. Thus, cruciferous vegetables have been of great interest for potential use in the chemoprevention of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are rich source of glucosinolates, which are degraded into isothiocyanates by enzymatic action of plant-specific myrosinase or intestinal flora in the body. It appears that significant portion of the chemopreventive effects of isothiocyanates may be associated with the inhibition of the metabolic activation of carcinogens by cytochrome P450s (Phase I), coupled with strong induction of Phase II detoxifying and cellular defensive enzymes. Inductions of Phase II cellular enzymes are largely mediated by the antioxidant responsive element (ARE), which is regulated by the transcriptional factor, Nrf2. Additional potent regulatory mechanisms of Nrf2 include the different signaling kinase pathways (MAPK, PI3K, PKC and PERK) as well as other non-kinase dependent mechanisms. Moreover, apoptosis and cell cycle perturbations appear to be yet another potential chemopreventive mechanisms elicited by isothiocyanates, especially with respect to the effects on pre-initiated or initiated tumor cells. Finally, modulation of other critical signaling mediators, including the NF-kappaB and AP-1 by a wide array of chemopreventive agents including isothiocyanates may also contribute to the overall chemopreventive mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Chemoprevention
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates