British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Absolute bioavailability and dose-dependent pharmacokinetic behaviour of dietary doses of the chemopreventive isothiocyanate sulforaphane in rat

Natalya Hanlona1, Nick Coldhama2, Adriana Gielberta2, Nikolai Kuhnerta1, Maurice J. Sauera2, Laurie J. Kinga1 and Costas Ioannidesa1 c1

a1 Molecular Toxicology Group, School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK

a2 TSE Molecular Biology Department, Veterinary Laboratories Agency Weybridge, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK


Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring isothiocyanate with promising chemopreventive activity. An analytical method, utilising liquid chromatography-MS/MS, which allows the determination of sulforaphane in small volumes of rat plasma following exposure to low dietary doses, was developed and validated, and employed to determine its absolute bioavailability and pharmacokinetic characteristics. Rats were treated with either a single intravenous dose of sulforaphane (2·8 μmol/kg) or single oral doses of 2·8, 5·6 and 28 μmol/kg. Sulforaphane plasma concentrations were determined in blood samples withdrawn from the rat tail at regular time intervals. Following intravenous administration, the plasma profile of sulforaphane was best described by a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model, with a prolonged terminal phase. Sulforaphane was very well and rapidly absorbed and displayed an absolute bioavailability of 82 %, which, however, decreased at the higher doses, indicating a dose-dependent pharmacokinetic behaviour; similarly, Cmax values did not rise proportionately to the dose. At the highest dose used, the rate of absorption constant kab, biological half-life t½ and apparent volume of distribution decreased significantly. It is concluded that in the rat orally administered sulforaphane is rapidly absorbed, achieving high absolute bioavailability at low dietary doses, but dose-dependent pharmacokinetics was evident, with bioavailability decreasing with increasing dose.

(Received March 29 2007)

(Revised July 12 2007)

(Accepted July 25 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor C. Ioannides, fax +44 1483 686401, email


Abbreviations: AUC, area under the curve