Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L., Italica Group) has been recognized as a source of glucosinolates and their isothiocyanate metabolites that may be chemoprotective against human cancer. A predominant glucosinolate of broccoli is glucoraphanin and its cognate isothiocyanate is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to be a potent inducer of mammalian detoxication (Phase 2) enzyme activity and to inhibit chemical-induced tumorigenesis in animal models. Little is known about phenotypic variation in broccoli germplasm for Phase 2 enzyme (e.g., quinone reductase) induction potential. Thus, this study was undertaken to evaluate: 1) quinone reductase induction potential (QRIP) diversity among a population of broccoli inbreds; 2) QRIP levels in selected lines; 3) correlation of QRIP with other horticultural characteristics; and 4) QRIP expression in a sample of synthesized hybrids. In 1996, 71 inbreds and five hybrid checks (all field-grown), ranged from a QRIP of nearly zero to 150,000 units/g fresh weight (FW) (mean of 34,020 units/g FW). These values were highly correlated with methylsulphinylalkyl glucosinolate (MSAG; primarily glucoraphanin) concentrations that ranged from 0.04 to 2.94 μmol.g-1 FW. A select subset of lines evaluated in 1996 were reevaluated in 1997. QRIP and MSAG values in this second year were similar to and correlated with those observed in 1996 (r = 0.73, P < 0.0001 and r = 0.79, P < 0.0001, respectively). In addition, both QRIP and MSAG concentration were highly correlated with days from transplant to harvest. Average F1 hybrid values for QRIP and MSAG in 1997 fell typically between their parental means, but were often closer to the mean of the low parent. Results of this study indicate that divergent QRIP expression can effectively be used to select enhanced inbred lines to use in development of value-added hybrids. Evidence is also provided that there is a significant genetic component to both QRIP and MSAG concentration, and that selection for either one may provide an effective means for developing broccoli hybrids with enhanced chemoprotective attributes. Chemical names used: 4-methylsulphinylbutyl glucosinolate (glucoraphanin) and 4-methylsulphinylbutyl isothiocyanate (sulforaphane).
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