Isothiocyanates (ITCs)

Current research suggests that ITCs exert their beneficial effects through the modulation of three epigenetic mechanisms:

  • DNA-methylation
  • histone modification
  • microRNAs

ITCs have been shown to target both chemopreventive and inflammatory pathways. One of these is the Keap1–Nrf2–ARE pathway, involved in expression of genes encoding antioxidant and detoxifying phase II enzymes.

ITCs are known to be potent HDAC inhibitors. The ITC sulforaphane (SFN) has shown HDAC inhibitory activity in colon epithelial cells, different prostate epithelial cells and in various breast cancer cells. Another epigenetic activity of SFN is DNA demethylation through inhibition of DNMTs. Additionally, SFN and other brassica-derived ITCs are natural inhibitors of the pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF𝜅B.



  1. Hullar MA, Fu BC. Diet, the gut microbiome, and epigenetics.Cancer J. 2014;20(3):170. Doi: 10.1097/PPO.0000000000000053
  2. Wagner AE, Terschluesen AM, Rimbach G. Health Promoting Effects of Brassica-Derived Phytochemicals: From Chemopreventive and Anti-Inflammatory Activities to Epigenetic