The effects of garlic-derived sulfur compounds on cell proliferation, caspase 3 activity, thiol levels and anaerobic sulfur metabolism in human hepatoblastoma HepG2 cells

Cell Biochem Funct. 2012 Apr;30(3):198-204. doi: 10.1002/cbf.1835. Epub 2011 Nov 18.


The aim of the present studies was to determine whether the mechanism of biological action of garlic-derived sulfur compounds in human hepatoma (HepG2) cells can be dependent on the presence of labile sulfane sulfur in their molecules. We investigated the effect of allyl sulfides from garlic: monosulfide, disulfide and trisulfide on cell proliferation and viability, caspase 3 activity and hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) production in HepG2 cells. In parallel, we also examined the influence of the previously mentioned compounds on the levels of thiols, glutathione, cysteine and cysteinyl-glycine, and on the level of sulfane sulfur and the activity of its metabolic enzymes: rhodanese, 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase and cystathionase. Among the compounds under study, diallyl trisulfide (DATS), a sulfane sulfur-containing compound, showed the highest biological activity in HepG2 cells. This compound increased the H(2)O(2) formation, lowered the thiol level and produced the strongest inhibition of cell proliferation and the greatest induction of caspase 3 activity in HepG2 cells. DATS did not affect the activity of sulfurtransferases and lowered sulfane sulfur level in HepG2 cells. It appears that sulfane sulfur containing DATS can be bioreduced in cancer cells to hydroperthiol that leads to H(2)O(2) generation, thereby influencing transmission of signals regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis / drug effects
  • Caspase 3 / genetics
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Garlic / chemistry*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatoblastoma / drug therapy
  • Hepatoblastoma / genetics
  • Hepatoblastoma / metabolism*
  • Hepatoblastoma / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Sulfur Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Sulfur Compounds
  • Sulfur
  • Caspase 3