Potent activation of mitochondria-mediated apoptosis and arrest in S and M phases of cancer cells by a broccoli sprout extract

Mol Cancer Ther. 2006 Apr;5(4):935-44. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-05-0476.


We have previously shown that broccoli sprouts are a rich source of chemopreventive isothiocyanates, which potently induce carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes and inhibit the development of mammary and skin tumors in rodents. However, the principal isothiocyanate present in broccoli sprout extracts, sulforaphane, not only induces carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes but also activates apoptosis and blocks cell cycle progression. In this article, we show that an aqueous extract of broccoli sprouts potently inhibits the growth of human bladder carcinoma cells in culture and that this inhibition is almost exclusively due to the isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are present in broccoli sprouts as their glucosinolate precursors and blocking their conversion to isothiocyanates abolishes the antiproliferative activity of the extract. Moreover, the potency of isothiocyanates in the extract in inhibiting cancer cell growth was almost identical to that of synthetic sulforaphane, as judged by their IC50 values (6.6 versus 6.8 micromol/L), suggesting that other isothiocyanates in the extract may be biologically similar to sulforaphane and that nonisothiocyanate substances in the extract may not interfere with the antiproliferative activity of the isothiocyanates. Further study showed that the isothiocyanate extract of broccoli sprouts activated the mitochondria-mediated apoptosis pathway and halted cells in S and M phases. Cell cycle arrest was associated with down-regulation of Cdc25C and disruption of mitotic spindles. These data show that broccoli sprout isothiocyanate extract is a highly promising substance for cancer prevention/treatment and that its antiproliferative activity is exclusively derived from isothiocyanates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Brassica*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Stems / chemistry*
  • S Phase / drug effects
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms


  • Plant Extracts