Hypothiocyanite and host-microbe interactions

Mol Microbiol. 2023 Mar;119(3):302-311. doi: 10.1111/mmi.15025. Epub 2023 Feb 6.


The pseudohypohalous acid hypothiocyanite/hypothiocyanous acid (OSCN- /HOSCN) has been known to play an antimicrobial role in mammalian immunity for decades. It is a potent oxidant that kills bacteria but is non-toxic to human cells. Produced from thiocyanate (SCN- ) and hydrogen peroxide (H2 O2 ) in a variety of body sites by peroxidase enzymes, HOSCN has been explored as an agent of food preservation, pathogen killing, and even improved toothpaste. However, despite the well-recognized antibacterial role HOSCN plays in host-pathogen interactions, little is known about how bacteria sense and respond to this oxidant. In this work, we will summarize what is known and unknown about HOSCN in innate immunity and recent advances in understanding the responses that both pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria mount against this antimicrobial agent, highlighting studies done with three model organisms, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus spp., and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Keywords: bacteria; host-microbe interactions; oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host Microbial Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Oxidants
  • Peroxidases
  • Thiocyanates* / pharmacology


  • hypothiocyanite ion
  • Thiocyanates
  • Peroxidases
  • Oxidants