Effects of sulforaphane on neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation

Genesis. 2017 Mar;55(3). doi: 10.1002/dvg.23022. Epub 2017 Feb 16.


Sulforaphane (SFN) is a natural organosulfur compound with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammation properties. The objective of this study is to investigate the effect of SFN on the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSC). NSCs were exposed to SFN at the concentrations ranging from 0.25 to 10 µM. Cell viability was evaluated with MTT assay and lactate dehydogenase (LDH) release assay. The proliferation of NSCs was evaluated with neurosphere formation assay and Ki-67 staining. The level of Tuj-1 was evaluated with immunostaining and Western blot to assess NSC neuronal differentiation. The expression of key proteins in the Wnt signaling pathway, including β-catenin and cyclin D1, in response to SFN treatment or the Wnt inhibitor, DKK-1, was determined by Western blotting. No significant cytotoxicity was seen for SFN on NSCs with SFN at concentrations of less than 10 µM. On the contrary, SFN of low concentrations stimulated cell proliferation and prominently increased neurosphere formation and NSC differentiation to neurons. SFN treatment upregulated Wnt signaling in the NSCs, whereas DKK-1 attenuated the effects of SFN. SFN is a drug to promote NSC proliferation and neuronal differentiation when used at low concentrations. These protective effects are mediated by Wnt signaling pathway.

Keywords: Wnt signaling; differentiation; neural stem cell; proliferation; sulforaphane.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / physiology
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • beta Catenin
  • Cyclin D1
  • sulforaphane