Sulforaphane-stimulated phase II enzyme induction inhibits cytokine production by airway epithelial cells stimulated with diesel extract

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):L33-9. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00170.2006. Epub 2006 Aug 11.


Airborne particulate pollutants, such as diesel exhaust particles, are thought to exacerbate lung and cardiovascular diseases through induction of oxidative stress. Sulforaphane, derived from cruciferous vegetables, is the most potent known inducer of phase II enzymes involved in the detoxification of xenobiotics. We postulated that sulforaphane may be able to ameliorate the adverse effects of pollutants by upregulating expression of endogenous antioxidant enzymes. Stimulation of bronchial epithelial cells with the chemical constituents of diesel particles result in the production of proinflammatory cytokines. We first demonstrated a role for phase II enzymes in regulating diesel effects by transfecting the airway epithelial cell line (BEAS-2B) with the sentinel phase II enzyme NAD(P)H: quinine oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). IL-8 production in response to diesel extract was significantly reduced in these compared with untransfected cells. We then examined whether sulforaphane would stimulate phase II induction and whether this would thereby ablate the effect of diesel extracts on cytokine production. We verified that sulforaphane significantly augmented expression of the phase II enzyme genes GSTM1 and NQO1 and confirmed that sulforaphane treatment increased glutathione S-transferase activity in epithelial cells without inducing cell death or apoptosis. Sulforaphane pretreatment inhibited IL-8 production by BEAS-2B cells upon stimulation with diesel extract. Similarly, whereas diesel extract stimulated production of IL-8, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and IL-1beta from primary human bronchial epithelial cells, sulforaphane pretreatment inhibited diesel-induced production of all of these cytokines. Our studies show that sulforaphane can mitigate the effect of diesel in respiratory epithelial cells and demonstrate the chemopreventative potential of phase II enzyme enhancement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis
  • Isothiocyanates
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone) / genetics
  • Thiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Transfection
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-8
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Thiocyanates
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • DNA
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • NQO1 protein, human
  • sulforaphane