The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants

J. W. Fahey, A. T. Zalcmann, P. Talalay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2005 Scopus citations


Glucosinolates (β-thioglucoside-N-hydroxysulfates), the precursors of isothiocyanates, are present in sixteen families of dicotyledonous angiosperms including a large number of edible species. At least 120 different glucosinolates have been identified in these plants, although closely related taxonomic groups typically contain only a small number of such compounds. Glucosinolates and/or their breakdown products have long been known for their fungicidal, bacteriocidal, nematocidal and allelopathic properties and have recently attracted intense research interest because of their cancer chemoprotective attributes. Numerous reviews have addressed the occurrence of glucosinolates in vegetables, primarily the family Brassicaceae (syn. Cruciferae; including Brassica spp and Raphanus spp). The major focus of much previous research has been on the negative aspects of these compounds because of the prevalence of certain "antinutritional" or goitrogenic glucosinolates in the protein-rich defatted meal from widely grown oilseed crops and in some domesticated vegetable crops. There is, however, an opposite and positive side of this picture represented by the therapeutic and prophylactic properties of other "nutritional" or "functional" glucosinolates. This review addresses the complex array of these biologically active and chemically diverse compounds many of which have been identified during the past three decades in other families. In addition to the Brassica vegetables, these glucosinolates have been found in hundreds of species, many of which are edible or could provide substantial quantities of glucosinolates for isolation, for biological evaluation, and potential application as chemoprotective or other dietary or pharmacological agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-51
Number of pages47
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2001


  • Cancer
  • Chemoprotection
  • Crucifers
  • Edible plants
  • Functional food
  • Myrosinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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