Reactive Cysteine Persulphides: Occurrence, Biosynthesis, Antioxidant Activity, Methodologies, and Bacterial Persulphide Signalling

Adv Microb Physiol. 2018;72:1-28. doi: 10.1016/bs.ampbs.2018.01.002. Epub 2018 Feb 26.


Cysteine hydropersulphide (CysSSH) is a cysteine derivative having one additional sulphur atom bound to a cysteinyl thiol group. Recent advances in the development of analytical methods for detection and quantification of persulphides and polysulphides have revealed the biological presence, in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, of hydropersulphides in diverse forms such as CysSSH, homocysteine hydropersulphide, glutathione hydropersulphide, bacillithiol hydropersulphide, coenzyme A hydropersulphide, and protein hydropersulphides. Owing to the chemical reactivity of the persulphide moiety, biological systems utilize persulphides as important intermediates in the synthesis of various sulphur-containing biomolecules. Accumulating evidence has revealed another important feature of persulphides: their potent reducing activity, which implies that they are implicated in the regulation of redox signalling and antioxidant functions. In this chapter, we discuss the biological occurrence and possible biosynthetic mechanisms of CysSSH and related persulphides, and we include descriptions of recent advances in the analytical methods that have been used to detect and quantitate persulphide species. We also discuss the antioxidant activity of persulphide species that contributes to protecting cells from reactive oxygen species-associated damage, and we examine the signalling roles of CysSSH in bacteria.

Keywords: Antioxidants; CysSSH biosynthesis; CysSSH signalling; Cysteine hydropersulphide; Fluorescent probes; Glutathione hydropersulphide; LC-MS/MS; Proteomics; Reactive cysteine persulphides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cysteine / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Sulfides / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Sulfides
  • persulfides
  • Cysteine