The antimicrobial effects of glucosinolates and their respective enzymatic hydrolysis products on bacteria isolated from the human intestinal tract

J Appl Microbiol. 2009 Jun;106(6):2086-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04180.x. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


Aims: The aim of the study was to evaluate the in vitro antibacterial activity of glucosinolates and their enzymatic hydrolysis product against bacteria isolated from the human intestinal tract.

Methods and results: Using a disc diffusion bioassay, different doses of intact glucosinolates and their corresponding hydrolysis products were tested. There were clear structure-activity and concentration differences with respect to the in vitro growth inhibition effects as well as differences in the sensitivities of the individual bacteria. The most effective glucosinolate hydrolysis products were the isothiocyanates; sulforaphane and benzyl isothiocyanate were the best inhibitors of growth. Indole-3-carbinol had some inhibitory effects against the Gram-positive bacteria but had no effect, even at the highest dose, against the Gram-negative bacteria. Indole-3-acetonitrile had some inhibitory activity against the Gram-negative bacteria. Glucosinolates, nitriles and amines were ineffective at all the doses used.

Conclusions: Glucosinolate hydrolysis products and specifically the isothiocyanates SFN and BITC have significant antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, and might be useful in controlling human pathogens through the diet.

Significance and impact of the study: This the first major in vitro study demonstrating the potential of these natural dietary chemicals as an alternative to, or in combination with, current antibiotic-based therapies for treating infectious diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glucosinolates / chemistry
  • Glucosinolates / pharmacology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / growth & development
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Intestines / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Glucosinolates