Anti-Carcinogenic Glucosinolates in Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Antagonistic Effects on Prevention of Cancers

Molecules. 2018 Nov 15;23(11):2983. doi: 10.3390/molecules23112983.


Glucosinolates (GSL) are naturally occurring β-d-thioglucosides found across the cruciferous vegetables. Core structure formation and side-chain modifications lead to the synthesis of more than 200 types of GSLs in Brassicaceae. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) are chemoprotectives produced as the hydrolyzed product of GSLs by enzyme myrosinase. Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) and sulforaphane ([1-isothioyanato-4-(methyl-sulfinyl) butane], SFN) are potential ITCs with efficient therapeutic properties. Beneficial role of BITC, PEITC and SFN was widely studied against various cancers such as breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic, prostate and so forth. Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) is a key transcription factor limits the tumor progression. Induction of ARE (antioxidant responsive element) and ROS (reactive oxygen species) mediated pathway by Nrf2 controls the activity of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB). NF-κB has a double edged role in the immune system. NF-κB induced during inflammatory is essential for an acute immune process. Meanwhile, hyper activation of NF-κB transcription factors was witnessed in the tumor cells. Antagonistic activity of BITC, PEITC and SFN against cancer was related with the direct/indirect interaction with Nrf2 and NF-κB protein. All three ITCs able to disrupts Nrf2-Keap1 complex and translocate Nrf2 into the nucleus. BITC have the affinity to inhibit the NF-κB than SFN due to the presence of additional benzyl structure. This review will give the overview on chemo preventive of ITCs against several types of cancer cell lines. We have also discussed the molecular interaction(s) of the antagonistic effect of BITC, PEITC and SFN with Nrf2 and NF-κB to prevent cancer.

Keywords: BITC; Brassicaceae; PEITC; SFN; chemoprotective products; glucosinolates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Chemoprevention
  • Glucosinolates / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Glucosinolates
  • Isothiocyanates
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NF-kappa B
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • isothiocyanic acid