The role of hydrogen sulphide in the control of breathing in hypoxic zebrafish (Danio rerio)

J Physiol. 2014 Jul 15;592(14):3075-88. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2014.271098. Epub 2014 Apr 22.


The current study investigated the role of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) in oxygen sensing, intracellular signalling and promotion of ventilatory responses to hypoxia in adult and larval zebrafish (Danio rerio). Both larval and adult zebrafish exhibited a dose-dependent increase in ventilation to sodium sulphide (Na2S), an H2S donor. In vertebrates, cystathionine β-synthase (CBS) and cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE) are enzymes that catalyse the endogenous production of H2S. In adult zebrafish, inhibition of both CBS and CSE with aminooxyacetate (AOA) and propargyl glycine (PPG) blunted or abolished the hypoxic hyperventilation, and the addition of Na2S to the water partially rescued the effects of inhibiting endogenous H2S production. In zebrafish larvae (4 days post-fertilization), gene knockdown of either CBS or CSE using morpholinos attenuated the hypoxic ventilatory response. Furthermore, the intracellular calcium concentration of isolated neuroepithelial cells (NECs), which are putative oxygen chemoreceptors, increased significantly when these cells were exposed to 50 μm Na2S, supporting a role for H2S in Ca(2+)-evoked neurotransmitter release in these cells. Finally, immunohistochemical labelling showed that NECs dissociated from adult gill contained CBS and CSE, whereas cutaneous NECs in larval zebrafish expressed only CSE. Taken together, these data show that H2S can be produced in the putative oxygen-sensing cells of zebrafish, the NECs, in which it appears to play a pivotal role in promoting the hypoxic ventilatory response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes / pharmacology
  • Aminooxyacetic Acid / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase / physiology
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase / physiology
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen Sulfide*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Neuroepithelial Cells / physiology
  • Oxygen / physiology
  • Respiration*
  • Sulfides / pharmacology
  • Zebrafish


  • Alkynes
  • Sulfides
  • Aminooxyacetic Acid
  • propargylglycine
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase
  • Oxygen
  • Glycine
  • sodium sulfide
  • Hydrogen Sulfide