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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2015;230:29-59. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-18144-8_2.

Persulfidation (S-sulfhydration) and H2S.

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Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Egerlandstrasse 1, 91058, Erlangen, Germany,


The past decade has witnessed the discovery of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as a new signalling molecule. Its ability to act as a neurotransmitter, regulator of blood pressure, immunomodulator or anti-apoptotic agent, together with its great pharmacological potential, is now well established. Notwithstanding the growing body of evidence showing the biological roles of H2S, the gap between the macroscopic descriptions and the actual mechanism(s) behind these processes is getting larger. The reactivity towards reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and/or metal centres cannot explain this plethora of biological effects. Therefore, a mechanism involving modification of protein cysteine residues to form protein persulfides is proposed. It is alternatively called S-sulfhydration. Persulfides are not particularly stable and show increased reactivity when compared to free thiols. Detection of protein persulfides is still facing methodological limitations, and mechanisms by which H2S causes this modification are still largely scarce. Persulfidation of protein such as KATP could contribute to H2S-induced vasodilation, while S-sulfhydration of GAPDH and NF-κB inhibits apoptosis. H2S regulates endoplasmic reticulum stress by causing persulfidation of PTP-1B. Several other proteins have been found to be regulated by this posttranslational modification of cysteine. This review article provides a critical overview of the current state of the literature addressing protein S-sulfhydration, with particular emphasis on the challenges and future research directions in this particular field.

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