Hydrogen sulfide (H2 S) has traditionally been viewed as a highly toxic gas; however, recent studies have implicated H2 S as a third member of the gasotransmitter family, exhibiting properties similar to NO and carbon monoxide. Accumulating evidence has suggested that H2 S influences a wide range of physiological and pathological processes, among which blood vessel relaxation, cardioprotection and atherosclerosis have been particularly studied. In the cardiovascular system, H2 S production is predominantly catalyzed by cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE). Decreased endogenous H2 S levels have been found in hypertensive patients and animals, and CSE(-/-) mice develop hypertension with age, suggesting that a deficiency in H2 S contributes importantly to BP regulation. H2 S supplementation attenuates hypertension in different hypertensive animal models. The mechanism by which H2 S was originally proposed to attenuate hypertension was by virtue of its action on vascular tone, which may be related to effects on different ion channels. Both H2 S and NO cause vasodilatation and there is cross-talk between these two molecules to regulate BP. Suppression of oxidative stress may also contribute to antihypertensive effects of H2 S. This review also summarizes the state of research on H2 S and hypertension in China. A better understanding of the role of H2 S in hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases will allow novel strategies to be devised for their treatment.
© 2014 The British Pharmacological Society.