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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Feb 4;405(1):146-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.01.025. Epub 2011 Jan 8.

Stimulation of phagocytosis by sulforaphane.

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Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Sulforaphane, a major isothiocyanate derived from cruciferous vegetables, protects living systems against electrophile toxicity, oxidative stress, inflammation, and radiation. A major protective mechanism is the induction of a network of endogenous cytoprotective (phase 2) genes that are regulated by transcription factor Nrf2. To obtain a more detailed understanding of the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of sulforaphane, we evaluated its effect on the phagocytosis activity of RAW 264.7 murine macrophage-like cells by measuring the uptake of 2-μm diameter polystyrene beads. Sulforaphane raised the phagocytosis activity of RAW 264.7 cells but only in the absence or presence of low concentrations (1%) of fetal bovine serum. Higher serum concentrations depressed phagocytosis and abolished its stimulation by sulforaphane. This stimulation did not depend on the induction of Nrf2-regulated genes since it occurred in peritoneal macrophages of nrf2(-/-) mice. Moreover, a potent triterpenoid inducer of Nrf2-dependent genes did not stimulate phagocytosis, whereas sulforaphane and another isothiocyanate (benzyl isothiocyanate) had comparable inducer potencies. It has been shown recently that sulforaphane is a potent and direct inactivator of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), an inflammatory cytokine. Moreover, the addition of recombinant MIF to RAW 264.7 cells attenuated phagocytosis, but sulforaphane-inactivated MIF did not affect phagocytosis. The inactivation of MIF may therefore be involved in the phagocytosis-enhancing activity of sulforaphane.

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