Measuring Sulforaphane and Its Metabolites in Human Plasma: A High Throughput Method

Molecules. 2020 Feb 13;25(4):829. doi: 10.3390/molecules25040829.


(1) Background: There is increasing understanding of the potential health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. In particular sulforaphane (SFN), found in broccoli, and its metabolites sulforaphane-glutathione (SFN-GSH), sulforaphane-cysteine (SFN-Cys), sulforaphane cysteine-glycine (SFN-CG) and sulforaphane-N-acetyl-cysteine (SFN-NAC) have potent antioxidant effects that may offer therapeutic value. Clinical investigation of sulforaphane as a therapeutic antioxidant requires a sensitive and high throughput process for quantification of sulforaphane and metabolites; (2) Methods: We collected plasma samples from healthy human volunteers before and for eight hours after consumption of a commercial broccoli extract supplement rich in sulforaphane. A rapid and sensitive method for quantification of sulforaphane and its metabolites in human plasma using Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) has been developed; (3) Results: The LC-MS analytical method was validated at concentrations ranging between 3.9 nM and 1000 nM for SFN-GSH, SFN-CG, SFN-Cys and SFN-NAC and between 7.8 nM and 1000 nM in human plasma for SFN. The method displayed good accuracy (1.85%-14.8% bias) and reproducibility (below 9.53 %RSD) including low concentrations 3.9 nM and 7.8 nM. Four SFN metabolites quantitation was achieved using external standard calibration and in SFN quantitation, SFN-d8 internal standardization was used. The reported method can accurately quantify sulforaphane and its metabolites at low concentrations in plasma; (4) Conclusions: We have established a time- and cost-efficient method of measuring sulforaphane and its metabolites in human plasma suitable for high throughput application to clinical trials.

Keywords: Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry; pharmacokinetic; sulforaphane.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / blood*
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacokinetics
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sulfoxides


  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sulfoxides
  • sulforaphane