Hydrogen sulfide protects from colitis and restores intestinal microbiota biofilm and mucus production

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2015 May;21(5):1006-17. doi: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000000345.


Background: Microbiota dysbiosis and impaired barrier function are among the most prominent features of inflammatory bowel disease. In the gastrointestinal tract, hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) is an important regulator of mucosal homeostasis. We hypothesized that H(2)S promotes resolution of colonic inflammation through actions on microbiota biofilm and the mucus barrier.

Methods: We used mice genetically deficient for a key enzyme for H(2)S production (cystathionine γ-lyase) and pharmacologically inhibited that enzyme during colitis in wild-type mice. We tested the effects of administering an H(2)S donor (diallyl disulfide) to rodents during hapten-induced colitis. Colonic microbiota biofilm was visualized by fluorescent in situ hybridization, and mucus granules were quantified with periodic acid-alcian blue staining. We exposed human microbiota biofilms and planktonic bacteria to H(2)S donors ex vivo to determine changes in their growth, viability, and biomass.

Results: Intestinal microbiota formed linear biofilms in the colon of healthy rodents. During colitis, microbiota biofilms were fragmented and mucus granule production decreased. Endogenous production of H(2)S had beneficial effects on establishment of microbiota biofilms and colonic mucus production. Therapeutic delivery of H(2)S into the colon reduced inflammation, restored the microbiota biofilm, and increased the production of mucus granules. In ex vivo human microbiota, H(2)S not only promoted biofilm formation but also reduced growth of planktonic bacteria.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that H(2)S donors could be used therapeutically during colitis, facilitating correction of microbiota biofilm dysbiosis and mucus layer reconstitution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Colitis / chemically induced
  • Colitis / metabolism
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colitis / prevention & control*
  • Dextran Sulfate / toxicity
  • Gasotransmitters / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / therapeutic use*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mucus / drug effects
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Gasotransmitters
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Hydrogen Sulfide