Effect of glutathione-S-transferase polymorphisms on the cancer preventive potential of isothiocyanates: an epidemiological perspective

Mutat Res. 2005 Dec 30;592(1-2):58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2005.06.004. Epub 2005 Jul 12.


Isothiocyanates (ITCs) are widely distributed in cruciferous vegetables and are biologically active against chemical carcinogenesis due to their ability to induce phase II conjugating enzymes. Among these is the glutathione-S-transferase (GST) family of enzymes, which in turn catalyzes the metabolism of ITCs, for which it has high substrate specificity. A recent body of epidemiologic data on the inverse association between cruciferous vegetable/ITC intake and cancers of the colo-rectum, lung and breast, also support that this protective effect is greater among individuals who possess the GSTM1 or T1 null genotype, and who would be expected to accumulate higher levels of ITC at the target tissue level, a pre-requisite for their enzyme-inducing effects. The association between ITC and cancer, and its modification by GST status, is most consistent for lung cancer and appears to be strongest among current smokers. Within limits, a comparison between groups which have been stratified by GST genotype may be less susceptible to confounding by other variables, given the random assortment of genes in gametogenesis. While a more complete understanding of the overall effects on health will need to take into account other components such as indoles and anti-oxidants, the interaction between ITC intake and GST genotype may provide a firmer basis to support a biologically significant role for ITC in cruciferous vegetables.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brassica
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / therapeutic use*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Glutathione Transferase