Induction of apoptosis in tumor cells by naturally occurring sulfur-containing compounds

Xinjiang Wu, Fekadu Kassie, Volker Mersch-Sundermann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Chemoprevention is regarded as one of the most promising and realistic approaches in the prevention of human cancer. Among naturally occurring products, sulfur-containing compounds (OSCs), especially garlic compounds (GCs) and isothiocyanates (ITCs), represent two important and promising chemopreventive families because of their potent chemopreventive effects in various in vivo and in vitro models. In recent years, numerous investigations have shown that sulfur-containing compounds induce apoptosis in multiple cell lines and experimental animals. In the course of apoptosis induction by GCs and ITCs, multiple signal-transduction pathways and apoptosis intermediates are modulated. In particular, modulation of MAPKs and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) seem to play pivotal roles in apoptosis induction by most GCs and ITCs. However, the role of P53 is still controversial. Based on present knowledge, GCs and ITCs may target not only the metabolism of carcinogens but also apoptosis signaling molecules. The effects of ITCs and GCs at multiple points of cancer development make these compounds highly promising candidates in cancer chemoprevention. However, the mechanisms of their anticancer effects are not fully understood, and further studies are required, especially to elucidate the role of cell-death receptors (the extrinsic pathway) and whether these agents induce apoptotic effects in non-tumor cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-102
Number of pages22
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Garlic constituents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sulfur containing compound


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