A review of hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S) donors: Chemistry and potential therapeutic applications

Biochem Pharmacol. 2018 Mar;149:110-123. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2017.11.014. Epub 2017 Nov 23.


Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a ubiquitous small gaseous signaling molecule, playing an important role in many physiological processes and joining nitric oxide and carbon monoxide in the group of signaling agents termed gasotransmitters. Endogenous concentrations of H2S are generally low, making it difficult to discern precise biological functions. As such, probing the physiological roles of H2S is aided by exogenous delivery of the gas in cell and animal studies. This need for an exogenous source of H2S provides a unique challenge for chemists to develop chemical tools that facilitate the study of H2S under biological conditions. Compounds that degrade in response to a specific trigger to release H2S, termed H2S donors, include a wide variety of functional groups and delivery systems, some of which mimic the tightly controlled endogenous production in response to specific, biologically relevant conditions. This review examines a variety of H2S donor systems classified by their H2S-releasing trigger as well as their H2S release profiles, byproducts, and potential therapeutic applications.

Keywords: Carbonyl sulfide; Cell signaling; Gasotransmitter; Perthiols; Self-immolation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Gasotransmitters / chemistry
  • Gasotransmitters / metabolism*
  • Gasotransmitters / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Gasotransmitters
  • Cysteine
  • Hydrogen Sulfide