The relative contribution of indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and its acid condensation products to the anticarcinogenic activity of this crucifer phytochemical has been studied using trout embryo microinjection. I3C was treated with 0.07 n HCI to give a reaction mixture (RXM) comprising <0.5% parent compound and over 20 products, the most prevalent being the dimer 3,3′-diindolylmethane (I33′) and a related cyclic trimer (CT). RXM, I33′ or CT was injected into embryos with [3H]aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and total embryonic DNA was isolated 1, 3, or 10 days postinjection. Compared with controls given AFB1 alone, I3C failed to inhibit carcinogen-DNA binding at any time point. In contrast I33′, CT, and RXM inhibited AFB1-DNA binding by an average of 37, 51, and 65%, respectively. Coinjection of AFB1 and 350 µm I3C, RXM, or I33′ into trout embryos reduced AFB1-induced hepatocarcinogenesis after 1 year from 43.4% in positive controls to 36.0, 12.2 (P < 0.05), and 24.6% (P < 0.05), respectively. No tumor data were obtained in the AFB1 plus CT group due to poor survival of the embryos posthatching. These results indicate that acid condensation products, not the parent compound, represent the anticarcinogenic species in trout and that their formation in the stomach is a likely prerequisite for I3C anticarcinogenesis.


This work was supported in part by USPHS Grants ES04766, ES03850, and ES00210 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services and Grant CA34732 from the National Cancer Institute.

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