Indole-3-carbinol in the maternal diet provides chemoprotection for the fetus against transplacental carcinogenesis by the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon dibenzo[a,l]pyrene

Carcinogenesis. 2006 Oct;27(10):2116-23. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgl072. Epub 2006 May 16.


The fetus and neonate are sensitive targets for chemically induced carcinogenesis. Few studies have examined the risk/benefit of chemoprotective phytochemicals, given in the maternal diet, against transplacental carcinogenesis. In this study, B6129 SF1/J (AHR(b-1/d)) and 129Sv/ImJ (AHR(d/d)) mice were cross-bred. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, dibenzo[a,l]pyrene (DBP), was administered to pregnant mice (15 mg/kg, gavage) on gestation day 17, and 2000 p.p.m. indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a chemoprotective phytochemical from cruciferous vegetables, was fed to half of the mice from gestation day 9 until weaning. Offspring born to dams fed I3C exhibited markedly fewer mortalities (P < 0.0001). Maternal dietary exposure to I3C also significantly lowered lung tumor multiplicity (P = 0.035) in offspring surviving to 10 months of age. The I3C chemoprotection was independent of either maternal or fetal AHR genotype. The bioavailability of DBP to fetal target tissue was demonstrated by assessing DNA covalent adduction with a (33)P-post-labeling assay. The bioavailability of I3C was determined by dosing a subset of pregnant mice with [(14)C]-I3C. Addition of chemoprotective agents to the maternal diet during pregnancy and nursing may be an effective new approach in reducing the incidence of cancers in children and young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Benzopyrenes / metabolism
  • Benzopyrenes / toxicity*
  • Biological Availability
  • DNA Adducts / analysis
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Fetal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Indoles / administration & dosage*
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / prevention & control
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Lymphoma / chemically induced
  • Lymphoma / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pregnancy


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Benzopyrenes
  • DNA Adducts
  • Indoles
  • NF-kappa B
  • indole-3-carbinol
  • dibenzo(a,l)pyrene