Hydrogen Sulfide in Physiology and Diseases of the Digestive Tract

Microorganisms. 2015 Nov 12;3(4):866-89. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms3040866.


Hydrogen sulfide (H₂S) is a Janus-faced molecule. On one hand, several toxic functions have been attributed to H₂S and exposure to high levels of this gas is extremely hazardous to health. On the other hand, H₂S delivery based clinical therapies are being developed to combat inflammation, visceral pain, oxidative stress related tissue injury, thrombosis and cancer. Since its discovery, H₂S has been found to have pleiotropic effects on physiology and health. H₂S is a gasotransmitter that exerts its effect on different systems, such as gastrointestinal, neuronal, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and hepatic systems. In the gastrointestinal tract, in addition to H₂S production by mammalian cystathionine-β-synthase (CBS), cystathionine-γ-lyase (CSE), H₂S is also generated by the metabolic activity of resident gut microbes, mainly by colonic Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria (SRB) via a dissimilatory sulfate reduction (DSR) pathway. In the gut, H₂S regulates functions such as inflammation, ischemia/ reperfusion injury and motility. H₂S derived from gut microbes has been found to be associated with gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. This underscores the importance of gut microbes and their production of H₂S on host physiology and pathophysiology.

Keywords: Desulfovibrio; Hydrogen sulfide; Ischemia/reperfusion injury; gastrointestinal tract; inflammation; motility; sulfate reducing bacteria.

Publication types

  • Review