Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), a constituent of edible cruciferous vegetables, decreases viability of cancer cells by causing apoptosis but the mechanism of cell death is not fully understood. The present study was undertaken to determine the role of Bcl-2 family proteins in BITC-induced apoptosis using MDA-MB-231 (breast), MCF-7 (breast), and HCT-116 (colon) human cancer cells. The B-cell lymphoma 2 interacting mediator of cell death (Bim) protein was dispensable for proapoptotic response to BITC in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells as judged by RNA interference studies. Instead, the BITC-treated MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells exhibited upregulation of p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA) protein. The BITC-mediated induction of PUMA was relatively more pronounced in MCF-7 cells due to the presence of wild-type p53 compared with MDA-MB-231 with mutant p53. The BITC-induced apoptosis was partially but significantly attenuated by RNA interference of PUMA in MCF-7 cells. The PUMA knockout variant of HCT-116 cells exhibited significant resistance towards BITC-induced apoptosis compared with wild-type HCT-116 cells. Attenuation of BITC-induced apoptosis in PUMA knockout HCT-116 cells was accompanied by enhanced G2/M phase cell cycle arrest due to induction of p21 and down regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase 1 protein. The BITC treatment caused a decrease in protein levels of Bcl-xL (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells) and Bcl-2 (MCF-7 cells). Ectopic expression of Bcl-xL in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells and that of Bcl-2 in MCF-7 cells conferred protection against proapoptotic response to BITC. Interestingly, the BITC-treated MDA-MB-231 cells exhibited induction of Bcl-2 protein expression, and RNA interference of Bcl-2 in this cell line resulted in augmentation of BITC-induced apoptosis. The BITC-mediated inhibition of MDA-MB-231 xenograft growth in vivo was associated with the induction of PUMA protein in the tumor. In conclusion, the results of the present study indicate that Bim-independent apoptosis by BITC in cancer cells is mediated by PUMA.