The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of the active principles in garlic-- diallyl sulfide (DAS) and diallyl disulfide (DADS)--on aflatoxin B(1) (AFB(1))-induced DNA damage in primary rat hepatocytes. Primary rat hepatocytes, induced with DNA damage using 10 microM AFB(1) were used as an experimental model. According to the results of LDH leakage, 0.5 and 2 mM of DAS or 0.5 and 1 mM of DADS significantly increased the viability of hepatocytes compared with the AFB(1) controls after 4, 8 and 24 h treatment (P<0.05). According to the results of unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS) test, 0.5 and 2 mM of DAS or 0.5 and 1 mM of DADS could significantly decrease the DNA damage induced by AFB(1) (P<0.05). Furthermore, 0.5 and 2 mM DAS or 0.5 and 1 mM DADS could increase the glutathione S-transferase (GST) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activities as compared with the AFB(1) controls after 24 h treatment (P<0.05). Results of immunoblot analysis of cytosolic GST isoenzyme indicate that the levels of GST isoform Ya, Yb2 and Yc were markedly increased after treatment with 0.5 and 2 mM DAS or 0.5 and 1 mM DADS compared with the AFB(1) control. These results indicate that 0.5 and 2 mM DAS or 0.5 and 1 mM DADS might protect hepatocytes from AFB(1)-induced DNA damage via increasing the activities of GST and GPx.