Primary cultures of human hepatocytes were used to investigate whether the dietary isothiocyanates, sulforaphane (SFN), and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) can reduce DNA adduct formation of the hepatocarcinogen aflatoxin B(1) (AFB). Following 48 h of pretreatment, 10 and 50 microM SFN greatly decreased AFB-DNA adduct levels, whereas 25muM PEITC decreased AFB-DNA adducts in some but not all hepatocyte preparations. Microarray and quantitative reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR analyses of gene expression in SFN and PEITC-treated hepatocytes demonstrated that SFN greatly decreased cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 mRNA but did not induce the expression of either glutathione S-transferase (GST) M1 or GSTT1. The protective effects of SFN required pretreatment; cotreatment of hepatocytes with SFN and AFB in the absence of pretreatment had no effect on AFB-DNA adduct formation. When AFB-DNA adduct formation was evaluated by GST genotype, the presence of one or two functional alleles of GSTM1 was associated with a 75% reduction in AFB-DNA adducts, compared with GSTM1 null. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that the inhibition of AFB-DNA adduct formation by SFN is dependent on changes in gene expression rather than direct inhibition of catalytic activity. Transcriptional repression of genes involved in AFB bioactivation (CYP3A4 and CYP1A2), but not transcriptional activation of GSTs, may be responsible for the protective effects of SFN. Although GSTM1 expression was not induced by SFN, the presence of a functional GSTM1 allele can afford substantial protection against AFB-DNA damage in human liver. The downregulation of CYP3A4 by SFN may have important implications for drug interactions.