Hydrogen sulfide mediates the anti-survival effect of sulforaphane on human prostate cancer cells

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Dec 15;257(3):420-8. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2011.09.026. Epub 2011 Oct 8.


Hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) is a novel gasotransmitter that regulates cell proliferation and other cellular functions. Sulforaphane (SFN) is a sulfur-containing compound that exhibits anticancer properties, and young sprouts of broccoli are particularly rich in SFN. There is consistent epidemiological evidence that the consumption of sulfur-containing vegetables, such as garlic and cruciferous vegetables, may help reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer. Here we found that a large amount of H(2)S is released when SFN is added into cell culture medium or mixed with mouse liver homogenates, respectively. Both SFN and NaHS (a H(2)S donor) decreased the viability of PC-3 cells (a human prostate cancer cell line) in a dose-dependent manner, and supplement of methemoglobin or oxidized glutathione (two H(2)S scavengers) reversed SFN-reduced cell viability. We further found both cystathionine gamma-lyase (CSE) and cystathionine beta-synthase are expressed in PC-3 cells and mouse prostate tissues. H(2)S production in prostate tissues from CSE knockout mice was only 20% of that from wild-type mice, suggesting CSE is a major H(2)S-producing enzyme in prostate. CSE overexpression enhanced H(2)S production and inhibited cell viability in PC-3 cells. In addition, both SFN and NaHS activated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Pre-treatment of PC-3 cells with methemoglobin decreased SFN-stimulated MAPK activities. Suppression of both p38 MAPK and JNK reversed H(2)S- or SFN-reduced viability of PC-3 cells. Our results demonstrated that H(2)S mediates the inhibitory effect of SFN on the proliferation of PC-3 cells, which suggests that H(2)S-releasing diet or drug might be beneficial in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase / metabolism
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism*
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sulfides / pharmacology
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates / administration & dosage
  • Thiocyanates / pharmacology*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sulfides
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase
  • sodium bisulfide
  • sulforaphane
  • Hydrogen Sulfide