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Allyl isothiocyanate induced stress response in Caenorhabditis elegans

AkalRachna K Saini12, Robert T Tyler1, Youn Young Shim3 and Martin JT Reaney3*

Author Affiliations

1 51 Campus Drive, Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A8, Canada

2 343-111 Research Drive, Helix BioPharma Corp, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 3R2, Canada

3 51 Campus Drive, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A8, Canada

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:502  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-502

Published: 17 November 2011



Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) from mustard is cytotoxic; however the mechanism of its toxicity is unknown. We examined the effects of AITC on heat shock protein (HSP) 70 expression in Caenorhabditis elegans. We also examined factors affecting the production of AITC from its precursor, sinigrin, a glucosinolate, in ground Brassica juncea cv. Vulcan seed as mustard has some potential as a biopesticide.


An assay to determine the concentration of AITC in ground mustard seed was improved to allow the measurement of AITC release in the first minutes after exposure of ground mustard seed to water. Using this assay, we determined that temperatures above 67°C decreased sinigrin conversion to AITC in hydrated ground B. juncea seed. A pH near 6.0 was found to be necessary for AITC release. RT-qPCR revealed no significant change in HSP70A mRNA expression at low concentrations of AITC (< 0.1 μM). However, treatment with higher concentrations (> 1.0 μM) resulted in a four- to five-fold increase in expression. A HSP70 ELISA showed that AITC toxicity in C. elegans was ameliorated by the presence of ground seed from low sinigrin B. juncea cv. Arrid.


• AITC induced toxicity in C. elegans, as measured by HSP70 expression.

• Conditions required for the conversion of sinigrin to AITC in ground B. juncea seed were determined.

• The use of C. elegans as a bioassay to test AITC or mustard biopesticide efficacy is discussed.

Brassica; myrosinase; glucosinolate; HSP70; toxicity; ELISA