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J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3499S-3506S.

Transcription factor Nrf2 is essential for induction of NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, glutathione S-transferases, and glutamate cysteine ligase by broccoli seeds and isothiocyanates.

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  • 1Biomedical Research Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY, Scotland, United Kingdom.


Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that, after conversion to isothiocyanates (ITC), are capable of inducing cytoprotective genes. We examined whether broccoli seeds can elicit a chemoprotective response in mouse organs and rodent cell lines and investigated whether this response requires nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2). The seeds studied contained glucosinolate at 40 mmol/kg, of which 59% comprised glucoiberin, 19% sinigrin, 8% glucoraphanin, and 7% progoitrin. Dietary administration of broccoli seeds to nrf2(+/+) and nrf2(-/-) mice produced a approximately 1.5-fold increase in NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) activities in stomach, small intestine, and liver of wild-type mice but not in mutant mice; increased transferase activity was associated with elevated levels of GSTA1/2, GSTA3, and GSTM1/2 subunits. These seeds also increased significantly the level of glutamate cysteine ligase catalytic (GCLC) subunit in the stomach and the small intestine of nrf2(+/+) mice but not nrf2(-/-) mice. An aqueous broccoli seed extract was prepared for treatment of cultured cells that contained ITC at approximately 600 mumol/L, composed of 61% 3-methylsulfinylpropyl ITC, 30% sulforaphane, 4% allyl ITC, and 4% 3-butenyl ITC. This extract induced GSTA1/2, GSTA3, NQO1, and GCLC between 3-fold and 10-fold in mouse Hepa-1c1c7 and rat liver RL-34 cells. The broccoli seed extract affected increases in GSTA3, GSTM1, and NQO1 proteins in nrf2(+/+) mouse embryonic fibroblasts but not in nrf2(-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts. These experiments show that broccoli seeds are effective at inducing antioxidant and detoxication proteins, both in vivo and ex vivo, in an Nrf2-dependent manner.

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