Genistin has antioxidant activities; however, its insolubility in water often limits its biological availability in vivo. Using a novel transglycosylation process, the solubility of genistin glycosides was increased 1000 to 10000-fold, but it was not known whether these modified genistin glycosides maintained antioxidant activity. We found that both genistin and its glycosides similarly up-regulated the transcription of several metallothionein (MT) antioxidant genes (MT1A, MT2A, MT1E, and MT1X), as well as the glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) gene in HepG2 cells. This gene induction was mediated by the sequestration of zinc in the cytosol, which up-regulated the metal-responsive transcription factor-1 (MTF-1) that induced MT gene expression. Although not as effective as ascorbic acid, genistin glycosides possessed slightly greater reducing power than genistin. We concluded that genistin and genistin glycosides have a direct antioxidant effect and an indirect antioxidant effect, perhaps via induction of MT by activity of MTF-1.