Identification of a common chemical signal regulating the induction of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogenesis

P. Talalay, M. J. De Long, H. J. Prochaska

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542 Scopus citations


Carcinogenesis is blocked by an extraordinary variety of agents belonging to many different classes - e.g., phenolic antioxidants, azo dyes, polycyclic aromatics, flavonoids, coumarins, cinnamates, indoles, isothiocyanates, 1,2-dithiol-3-thiones, and thiocarbamates. The only known common property of these anticarcinogens is their ability to elevate in animal cells the activities of enzymes that inactivate the reactive electrophilic forms of carcinogens. Structure - activity studies on the induction of quinone reductase [NAD(P)H:(quinone-acceptor) oxidoreductase, EC] and glutathione S-transferases have revealed that many anticarcinogenic enzyme inducers contain a distinctive and hitherto unrecognized chemical feature (or acquire this feature after metabolism) that regulates the synthesis of these protective enzymes. The inducers are Michael reaction acceptors characterized by olefinic (or acetylenic) bonds that are rendered electrophilic (positively charged) by conjugation with electron-withdrawing substituents. The potency of inducers parallels their efficiency in Michael reactions. Many inducers are also substrates for glutathione S-transferases, which is further evidence for their electrophilicity. These generalizations have not only provided mechanistic insight into the perplexing question of how such seemingly unrelated anticarcinogens induce chemoprotective enzymes, but also have led to the prediction of the structures of inducers with potential chemoprotective activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8261-8265
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

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