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Physiol Rev. 2012 Apr;92(2):791-896. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00017.2011.

Physiological implications of hydrogen sulfide: a whiff exploration that blossomed.

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Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.


The important life-supporting role of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) has evolved from bacteria to plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and finally to mammals. Over the centuries, however, H(2)S had only been known for its toxicity and environmental hazard. Physiological importance of H(2)S has been appreciated for about a decade. It started by the discovery of endogenous H(2)S production in mammalian cells and gained momentum by typifying this gasotransmitter with a variety of physiological functions. The H(2)S-catalyzing enzymes are differentially expressed in cardiovascular, neuronal, immune, renal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, liver, and endocrine systems and affect the functions of these systems through the production of H(2)S. The physiological functions of H(2)S are mediated by different molecular targets, such as different ion channels and signaling proteins. Alternations of H(2)S metabolism lead to an array of pathological disturbances in the form of hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, diabetes, cirrhosis, inflammation, sepsis, neurodegenerative disease, erectile dysfunction, and asthma, to name a few. Many new technologies have been developed to detect endogenous H(2)S production, and novel H(2)S-delivery compounds have been invented to aid therapeutic intervention of diseases related to abnormal H(2)S metabolism. While acknowledging the challenges ahead, research on H(2)S physiology and medicine is entering an exponential exploration era.

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