Enhanced Nrf2-dependent induction of glutathione in mouse embryonic fibroblasts by isoselenocyanate analog of sulforaphane

Sans W. Emmert, Dhimant Desai, Shantu Amin, John P. Richie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Epidemiological and laboratory studies have highlighted the potent chemopreventive effectiveness of both dietary selenium and cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli. Sulforaphane (SFN), an isothiocyanate, was identified as the major metabolite of broccoli responsible for its anti-cancer properties. An important mechanism for SFN chemoprevention is through the enhancement of glutathione (GSH), the most abundant antioxidant in animals and an important target in chemoprevention. Enhancement of GSH biosynthetic enzymes including the rate-limiting glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL), as well as other Phase II detoxification enzymes results from SFN-mediated induction of the nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant response elements (ARE) signaling pathway. While isothiocyanate compounds such as SFN are among the most potent Nrf2 inducers known, we hypothesized that substitution of sulfur with selenium in the isothiocyanate functional group of SFN would result in an isoselenocyanate compound (SFN-isoSe) with enhanced Nrf2 induction capability. Here we report that SFN-isoSe activated an ARE-luciferase reporter in HepG2 cells more potently than SFN. It was also found that SFN-isoSe induced GCL and GSH in MEF cells in an Nrf2-dependent manner. Finally, we provide evidence that SFN-isoSe was more effective in killing HepG2 cancer cells, yet was less toxic to non-cancer MEF cells, than SFN. These data support our hypothesis, and suggest that SFN-isoSe and potentially other isoselenocyanates may be highly effective chemoprotective agents in vivo due to their ability to induce Nrf2 with low toxicity in normal cells and high efficiency at killing cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2675-2679
Number of pages5
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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