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Deficiency of carcinogen-detoxifying phase 2 enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase (GST) and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), increases bladder cancer risk in humans. We report that several isothiocyanates (ITCs) that have not been previously examined, 1-methylbutyl ITC in particular, potently and preferentially induce both GST and NQO1 in the rat bladder. Comparison of 25 ITCs that are closely related in chemical structures showed that a 3–5-carbon aliphatic side chain with a methyl group attached to the alpha carbon was crucial for maximal inducer activity in the bladder. Surprisingly, cell-based bioassays failed to predict the phase 2 enzyme-inducing activity of the ITCs in the bladder. Furthermore, while ITCs are principally metabolized in vivo to dithiocarbamates (DTCs), which are believed to serve as the carriers of ITCs and are rapidly eliminated and concentrated in the urine, the total urinary levels of ITC plus DTC did not correlate with the degree of GST and NQO1 induction by the ITCs in the bladder of rats. Thus, several underappreciated ITCs are exceedingly potent inducers of GST and NQO1 in the rat bladder, but were predicted neither by in vitro bioassays of phase 2 enzyme induction, nor by their appearance or concentration in urine in vivo. Supported by Waikato Medical Research Foundation (New Zealand) and National Cancer Institute Grants CA80962 and CA100623 (USA).

[Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res, Volume 47, 2006]