Electrophiles in foods: The current status of isothiocyanates and their chemical biology

Yoshimasa Nakamura, Noriyuki Miyoshi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Unlike many classical signals and hormones, exposure of the cells to electrophilic molecules potentially induces a series of characteristic and wide-ranging biological responses by covalently attaching with macromolecules such as proteins as well as small cellular reductants. In addition to chemicals originated from xenobiotics or lipid peroxidation, electrophiles in foods have recently attracted much attention. These compounds have recently been found to induce expression of cytoprotective proteins that are involved in the elimination or inactivation of oxidative stress and carcinogenic electrophiles implicated in several pathogeneses. The redox-sensitive regulating systems such as Keap1/Nrf2/ARE play a key role in this induction and thus are considered to be the most important target of electrophiles in foods. This review highlights the food-derived electrophiles as promising protectors against various diseases, with an emphasis on possible molecular mechanisms. Current knowledge of isothiocyanates (ITCs), representative electrophile compounds from cruciferous vegetables, is discussed also, with consideration of the chemistry, metabolism, absorption, and factors influencing the biological activities of ITCs. In addition, this review attempts to provide a balanced perspective on the relative beneficial and harmful effects of the food electrophiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-255
Number of pages14
JournalBioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Antioxidant
  • Apoptosis
  • Cytoprotection
  • Electrophile
  • Isothiocyanate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry


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