This study reviewed aspects of the biology of two members of the glucosinolate family, namely sinigrin and glucoraphanin and their anti-tumour and antimicrobial properties. Sinigrin and glucoraphanin are converted by the β-sulphoglucosidase myrosinase or the gut microbiota into their bioactive forms, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) and sulphoraphanin (SFN) which constitute part of a sophisticated defence system plants developed over several hundred million years of evolution to protect them from parasitic attack from aphids, ticks, bacteria or nematodes. Delivery of these components from consumption of cruciferous vegetables rich in the glucosinolates also delivers many other members of the glucosinolate family so the dietary AITCs and SFN do not act in isolation. In vitro experiments with purified AITC and SFN have demonstrated their therapeutic utility as antimicrobials against a range of clinically important bacteria and fungi. AITC and SFN are as potent as Vancomycin in the treatment of bacteria listed by the World Health Organisation as antibiotic-resistant "priority pathogens" and also act as anti-cancer agents through the induction of phase II antioxidant enzymes which inactivate potential carcinogens. Glucosinolates may be useful in the treatment of biofilms formed on medical implants and catheters by problematic pathogenic bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus and are potent antimicrobials against a range of clinically important bacteria and fungi. The glucosinolates have also been applied in the prevention of bacterial and fungal spoilage of food products in advanced atmospheric packaging technology which improves the shelf-life of these products.
Keywords: allyl isothiocyanate; anti-bacterials; anti-tumour agents; glucosinolate; phase II detoxification enzymes; sulphopharane.