Significance: Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been recognized as a physiological mediator with a variety of functions. It regulates synaptic transmission, vascular tone, inflammation, transcription, and angiogenesis; protects cells from oxidative stress and ischemia-reperfusion injury; and promotes healing of ulcers.
Recent advances: In addition to cystathionine β-synthase and cystathionine γ-lyase, 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase along with cysteine aminotransferase was recently demonstrated to produce H2S. Even in bacteria, H2S produced by these enzymes functions as a defense against antibiotics, suggesting that the cytoprotective effect of H2S is a universal defense mechanism in organisms from bacteria to mammals.
Critical issues: The functional form of H2S-undissociated H2S gas, dissociated HS ion, or some other form of sulfur-has not been identified.
Future directions: The regulation of H2S production by three enzymes may lead to the identification of the physiological signals that are required to release H2S. The identification of the physiological functions of other forms of sulfur may also help understand the biological significance of H2S.