Sulforaphane Protects against Brain Diseases: Roles of Cytoprotective Enzymes

Review Article

Austin J Cerebrovasc Dis & Stroke. 2017; 4(1): 1054.

Sulforaphane Protects against Brain Diseases: Roles of Cytoprotective Enzymes

Sun Y¹, Yang T¹, Mao L² and Zhang F1,2*

¹Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, USA

²Key Lab of Cerebral Microcirculation, Taishan Medical University, China

*Corresponding author: Feng Zhang, Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA

Received: December 25, 2016; Accepted: February 14, 2017; Published: February 16, 2017


Sulforaphane (SFN) is a kind of isothiocyanate derived from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Because of its roles of antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and anti-tumor through multiple targets and various mechanisms, SFN has drawn broad attention of the researchers. One of the most important target of SFN is nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor 2 (Nrf2), wildly known for its ability to regulate the expression of a series of cytoprotective enzymes with antioxidative, prosurvival, and detoxification effects. Multiple researches have shown that SFN protects against central nervous system diseases through Nrf2pathway. In this article, we list SFN contents in common cruciferous vegetables, and summarize recent advances in the protective effects of SFN against acute brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases through activating Nrf2 signaling pathway.

Keywords: Sulforaphane; Nrf2; Stroke; TBI; Dementia; Autism


AD: Alzheimer’s Disease; ARE: Antioxidant Response Elements; ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorders; BBB: Blood-Brain Barrier; CNS: Central Nervous System; EGCG: Epigallocatechin Gallate; GSH: Glutathione; GSK-3β: Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β; GST: Glutathione S-Transferase; HO-1: Heme Oxygenase 1; ICH: Intracerebral Hemorrhages; KEAP1: Kelch-Like Ech Associated Protein 1; NQO-1: NADPH Quinine Oxidoreductase 1; Nrf2: Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2 Related Factor; OGD: Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation; PD: Parkinson’s Disease; SFN: Sulforaphane; TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury


Central nervous system (CNS) diseases are major health problems because of their high incidence of death and disability around the world. Multiple pathological processes are involved in brains diseases, including oxidative stress, protein misfolding and aggregation, perturbed calcium homeostasis, excitotoxicity, inflammation, and apoptosis [1,2]. In the past decades, there has been a growing interest in a number of dietary phytochemicals for their antioxidant antiinflammatory effects. Among them 1-isothiocyanate-4-methylsulfinyl butane (sulforaphane, SFN) is one of the most popular one [3-5].

SFN is the hydrolysis product of glucoraphanin, the main glucosinolates in broccoli [6,7]. Glucosinolates are wildly present in cruciferous vegetables (Table 1), such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower [8,9], but SFN contents are relatively low (Table 2 and Table 3) [10,11]. Upon consumption, however, glucoraphanin is hydrolyzed by myrosinase, and then converted into SFN [12] has been demonstrated that SFN has neuroprotective effects against brain diseases via a number of mechanisms [3]. In general, SFN inhibits phase I enzymes through directly interacting with cytochrome P450 and, on the other hand, induces phase II enzymes through activating nuclear factor E2-factor related factor (Nrf2). Phase I enzymes are usually involved in oxidation, reduction, or hydrolysis and generally lead to detoxification, while phase II enzymes demonstrate protection effects against CNS diseases due to their antioxidative and detoxifying roles. Here, this review will focus on the protective effects of SFN against various CNS diseases through activating Nrf2.