Erucin (ER) is a dietary isothiocyanate present in cruciferous vegetables, such as rocket salads (Erucasativa Mill., Diplotaxis sp.), that has been recently considered a promising cancer chemopreventive phytochemical. Biological activity of ER was investigated on human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells, analyzing its effects on molecular pathways involved in apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, such as PARP-1 cleavage, p53 and p21 protein expression. Our results show that ER affects the A549 cell proliferation, enhancing significantly p53 and p21 protein expression in a dose-dependent manner (p<0.001). PARP-1 cleavage occurs only after exposure to high concentrations of ER (50 microM), in accordance to previous studies showing similar bioactivity of other isothiocyanates (ITCs). Our study reports for the first time that the induction of p53, p21 and PARP-1 cleavage may participate in the anti-proliferative activity of ER in human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells. Comparison of data with those obtained with the isothiocyanate sulforaphane (SF), structurally related to ER, underlines the strong relationship between structural analogy of ITCs and their biological activity. The ability of dietary compounds to modulate molecular mechanisms that affect cancer cell proliferation is certainly a key point of the cancer prevention potential by functional foods.