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J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;115(3):320-8. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Glutathione biosynthesis via activation of the nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)--antioxidant-response element (ARE) pathway is essential for neuroprotective effects of sulforaphane and 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate.

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Department of Pharmacology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Japan.


Oxidative stress plays pivotal roles in aging, neurodegenerative disease, and pathological conditions such as ischemia. We investigated the effect of sulforaphane and 6-(methysulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate (6-HITC), a naturally occurring isothiocyanate, on oxidative stress-induced cytotoxicity using primary neuronal cultures of rat striatum. Pretreatment with sulforaphane and 6-HITC significantly protected against H(2)O(2)- and paraquat-induced cytotoxicity in a concentration-dependent manner. Sulforaphane and 6-HITC induced the translocation of nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) into the nucleus and increased the expression of γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS), a rate-limiting enzyme in glutathione synthesis, and the intracellular glutathione content. Treatment with reduced glutathione (GSH) and N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a substance for glutathione synthesis, significantly prevented the cytotoxicity induced by H(2)O(2) and paraquat. Moreover, exposure to L-buthionine-sulfoximine, an irreversible inhibitor of γ-GCS, suppressed the protective effects of sulforaphane and 6-HITC. In contrast, sulforaphane and 6-HITC increased heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression in neurons. However, zinc-protophorphyrin IX, a competitive inhibitor of HO-1, did not influence the protective effects of sulforaphane and 6-HITC. These results suggest that sulforaphane and 6-HITC prevent oxidative stress-induced cytotoxicity in rat striatal cultures by raising the intracellular glutathione content via an increase in γ-GCS expression induced by the activation of the Nrf2-antioxidant response element pathway.

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