Amino Acids

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 103–112 | Cite as

Allyl sulfur compounds and cellular detoxification system: effects and perspectives in cancer therapy

  • S. Melino
  • R. Sabelli
  • M. Paci
Review Article


Natural organosulfur compounds (OSCs) have been shown to have chemopreventive effects and to suppress the proliferation of tumor cells in vitro through the induction of apoptosis. The biochemical mechanisms underlying the antitumorigenic and anti-proliferative effects of garlic-derived OSCs are not fully understood. Several modes of action of these compounds have been proposed, and it seems likely that the rate of clearance of allyl sulfur groups from cells is a determinant of the overall response. The aim of this review is to focus attention on the effects of natural allyl sulfur compounds on the cell detoxification system in normal and tumor cells. It has been already reported that several natural allyl sulfur compounds induce chemopreventive effects by affecting xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes and inducing their down-activation. Moreover, different effects of water- and oil-soluble allyl sulfur compounds on enzymes involved in the detoxification system of rat tissues have been observed. A direct interaction of the garlic allyl sulfur compounds with proteins involved in the detoxification system was studied in order to support the hypothesis that proteins possessing reactive thiol groups and that are involved in the detoxification system and in the cellular redox homeostasis, are likely the preferential targets of these compounds. The biochemical transformation of the OSCs in the cell and their adducts with thiol functional groups of these proteins, could be considered relevant events to uncover the anticancer properties of the allyl sulfur compounds. Although additional studies, using proteomic approaches and transgenic models, are needed to identify the molecular targets and modes of action of these natural compounds, the allyl sulfur compounds can represent potential ideal agents in anticancer therapy, either alone or in association with other antitumor drugs.


Organosulfur compounds Alk(en)yl thiosulfate Garlic Glutathione S-transferase Detoxification Tumor 





Allyl methyl sulfide


Brush-border membranes


Constitutive androstane receptor


Glutathione-2,4-dinitrobenzene conjugate


Diallyl sulfide


Diallyl disulfide


Diallyl sulfoxide


Diallyl sulfone


Diallyl trisulfide


2′,7′-Dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate


Dimethyl disulfide








Glutathione S-transferase

HO 1

Heme oxygenase 1


Multidrug resistance


Multidrug resistance protein


3-Mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase


NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase 1


NF-E2-related factor-2


Organic anion transporting polypeptide 4


Organosulfur compounds

P450 s

Cytochrome P450 enzymes




Reactive oxygen species






Thioredoxin reductase




Thiosulfate sulfurtransferase


UDP-glucuronosyl transferase



We thank Prof. Anna Maria Caccuri for giving us the recombinant GST1π-1 protein, Dr.Giuditta Viticchiè for technical support in some experiments and Dr. Gaetano Barbato for helpful discussions.


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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sciences and Chemical TechnologiesUniversity of Rome “Tor Vergata”RomeItaly

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