Evaluation of isothiocyanates as potent inducers of carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes in the urinary bladder: critical nature of in vivo bioassay

Nutr Cancer. 2006;54(2):223-31. doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc5402_9.


Deficiency of carcinogen-detoxifying phase 2 enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase (GST) and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), increases bladder cancer risk in humans. We report that several isothiocyanates (ITCs) that have not been previously examined, 1-methylbutyl ITC in particular, potently and preferentially induce both GST and NQO1 in the rat bladder. Comparison of 25 ITCs that are closely related in chemical structures showed that a 3-5-carbon aliphatic side chain with a methyl group attached to the alpha carbon was crucial for maximal inducer activity in the bladder. Surprisingly, cell-based bioassays failed to predict the phase 2 enzyme-inducing activity of the ITCs in the bladder. Furthermore, although ITCs are principally metabolized in vivo to dithiocarbamates (DTCs), which are believed to serve as the carriers of ITCs and are rapidly eliminated and concentrated in the urine, the total urinary levels of ITC plus DTC did not correlate with the degree of GST and NQO1 induction by the ITCs in the bladder of rats. Thus, several underappreciated ITCs are exceedingly potent inducers of GST and NQO1 in the rat bladder but were predicted neither by in vitro bioassays of phase 2 enzyme induction nor by their appearance or concentration in urine in vivo.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Female
  • Glutathione Transferase / drug effects*
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Glutathione Transferase / urine
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Isothiocyanates / chemistry
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Isothiocyanates / urine
  • Quinone Reductases / drug effects*
  • Quinone Reductases / metabolism
  • Quinone Reductases / urine
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Urinary Bladder / drug effects
  • Urinary Bladder / enzymology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Isothiocyanates
  • Quinone Reductases
  • Glutathione Transferase