Involvement of c-Jun N-terminal kinase in G2/M arrest and caspase-mediated apoptosis induced by sulforaphane in DU145 prostate cancer cells

Nutr Cancer. 2005;52(2):213-24. doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc5202_11.


Sulforaphane (SFN) is a major isothiocyanate compound in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Preclinical animal models have recently shown that SFN and other isothiocyanates may be useful for prostrate cancer (PCa) chemoprevention. In this study we used a DU145 human PCa cell culture model to investigate the role of protein kinase signaling pathway(s) in SFN-induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis and whether another chemopreventive agent selenium enhances the apoptosis potency of SFN. The results showed that SFN exposure for 24 h or longer significantly decreased the number of viable DU145 cells in a dose-dependent manner with an IC50 of asymptotically equal to 10 microM. The decreased cell number was associated with G2/M phase arrest and apoptotic cell death, with the latter being evidenced by caspase-mediated cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and increased release of histone-associated DNA fragments. A peptide inhibitor of caspase-8 completely blocked SFN-induced apoptosis and that for caspase-9 exerted a major protection; however, neither inhibitor attenuated SFN-induced G2/M arrest. Regarding potential mediators, SFN treatment induced a transient rise of reactive oxygen species (ROS) peaking within (1/2) h and the activation of JNK within 1 h but did not have any detectable effect on the phosphorylation of p38MAPK or ERK1/2 from 6 h to 24 h. Pretreatment of cells with N-acetylcysteine to enrich intracellular glutathione blocked SFN-induced ROS and apoptotic cell death. Inhibiting the JNK activity with a pharmacologic inhibitor SP600125 abolished the induction of G2/M arrest and apoptosis by SFN, whereas chemical inhibitors for p38MAPK and MEK1/2 did not have any modulating effect on SFN-induced apoptosis. Taken together, the data indicate that SFN decreased viable DU145 cell number in large part through the generation of ROS and JNK-mediated signaling to G2/M arrest and caspase-dependent apoptosis. Selenium in the form of inorganic sodium selenite salt or methylseleninic acid did not enhance SFN-induced apoptosis in this cell culture model.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Synergism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Flow Cytometry
  • G2 Phase / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Isothiocyanates
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Selenium / pharmacology
  • Thiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thiocyanates
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Caspases
  • sulforaphane
  • Selenium