A timeline of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) research: From environmental toxin to biological mediator

Csaba Szabo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


The history of H2S – as an environmental toxin – dates back to 1700, to the observations of the Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini, whose book “De Morbis Artificum Diatriba” described the painful eye irritation and inflammation of “sewer gas” in sewer workers. The gas has subsequently been identified as hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and opened three centuries of research into the biological roles of H2S. The current article highlights the key discoveries in the field of H2S research, including (a) the toxicological studies, which characterized H2S as an environmental toxin, and identified some of its modes of action, including the inhibition of mitochondrial respiration; (b) work in the field of bacteriology, which, starting in the early 1900s, identified H2S as a bacterial product – with subsequently defined roles in the regulation of periodontal disease (oral bacterial flora), intestinal epithelial cell function (enteral bacterial flora) as well as in the regulation of bacterial resistance to antibiotics; and (c), work in diverse fields of mammalian biology, which, starting in the 1940s, identified H2S as an endogenous mammalian enzymatic product, the functions of which – among others, in the cardiovascular and nervous system – have become subjects of intensive investigation for the last decade. The current review not only enumerates the key discoveries related to H2S made over the last three centuries, but also compiles the most frequently cited papers in the field which have been published over the last decade and highlights some of the current ‘hot topics’ in the field of H2S biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • 3-Mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase
  • Cystathionine gamma lyase
  • Cystathionine-β-synthase
  • Gasotransmitters
  • Nitric oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'A timeline of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) research: From environmental toxin to biological mediator'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this