H 2 S, a bacterial defense mechanism against the host immune response

Tracy Toliver-Kinsky, Weihua Cui, Gabor Törö, Seung Jin Lee, Konstantin Shatalin, Evgeny Nudler, Csaba Szaboa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The biological mediator hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S) is produced by bacteria and has been shown to be cytoprotective against oxidative stress and to increase the sensitivity of various bacteria to a range of antibiotic drugs. Here we evaluated whether bacterial H 2 S provides resistance against the immune response, using two bacterial species that are common sources of nosocomial infections, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Elevations in H 2 S levels increased the resistance of both species to immune-mediated killing. Clearances of infections with wild-type and genetically H 2 S-deficient E. coli and S. aureus were compared in vitro and in mouse models of abdominal sepsis and burn wound infection. Also, inhibitors of H 2 S-producing enzymes were used to assess bacterial killing by leukocytes. We found that inhibition of bacterial H 2 S production can increase the susceptibility of both bacterial species to rapid killing by immune cells and can improve bacterial clearance after severe burn, an injury that increases susceptibility to opportunistic infections. These findings support the role of H 2 S as a bacterial defense mechanism against the host response and implicate bacterial H 2 S inhibition as a potential therapeutic intervention in the prevention or treatment of infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00272
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Burn
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Opportunistic infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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