Metabolism of isothiocyanates in individuals with positive and null GSTT1 and M1 genotypes after drinking watercress juice

Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;29(6):813-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2010.06.010. Epub 2010 Jul 24.


Background & aims: Isothiocyanates (ITCs) derived from cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be promising agents against cancer in human cell culture, animal models, and in epidemiological studies. Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between intake of dietary isothiocyanates and the risk of cancers, particularly lung, colon, and breast. More importantly, the protective effects of dietary ITCs appear to be influenced by glutathione S-transferase (GST) genotype; specifically, individuals with glutathione S-transferase theta 1 (GSTT1) and glutathione S-transferase Mu 1 (GSTM1) null are better protected than those with GSTT1 and M1 positive. Although the majority of studies, especially those conducted in populations exposed to ITC rich diets, demonstrated such effects, there are a few studies that showed opposite or no association. While evidence for the interactions of dietary ITCs with GST genes is relatively strong, the reasons for the differential effects remain unclear. In this study, we examined one possible mechanism: whether subjects with null genotypes excrete ITCs at a slower rate than those with positive genotypes after drinking watercress juice, a rich source of ITCs.

Methods: A total of 48 subjects, 28 GSTT1 and M1 positive and 20 null genotypes were enrolled in the study. The rates of excretion were determined using five urine samples collected over a period of 24 h after drinking watercress juice.

Results: No statistically significant differences in the rates of isothiocyanate excretion and the time of peak excretion were observed between the two tested groups having positive and null genotypes.

Conclusions: GSTT1 and M1 genotypes are not likely to be involved in the rate of excretion of ITCs in watercress. The demonstrated differences in protection among subjects with the two genotypes are not likely due to differences in overall ITC excretion rates, however, excretion rates of ITCs other than PEITC need to be investigated. Other yet to be identified mechanism(s) may underlie the diet and gene interactions between dietary ITCs and GST genotypes in human cancer prevention. Further research is needed to evaluate the protective mechanisms of isothiocyanates against cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beverages*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Genotype*
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / urine*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Vegetables / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Isothiocyanates
  • glutathione S-transferase T1
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • glutathione S-transferase M1