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Hydrogen sulfide: Environmental factor or signalling molecule?

Lisjak, Miroslav; Lisjak, Miro; Teklic, Tihana; Wilson, Ian D.; Whiteman, Matthew; Hancock, John T.


Miroslav Lisjak

Miro Lisjak

Tihana Teklic

Matthew Whiteman


Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has traditionally been thought of as a phytotoxin, having deleterious effects on the plant growth and survival. It is now recognized that plants have enzymes which generate H2S, cysteine desulfhydrase, and remove it, O-acetylserine lyase. Therefore, it has been suggested that H2S is considered as a signalling molecule, alongside small reactive compounds such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and nitric oxide (NO). Exposure of plants to low of H2S, for example from H2S donors, is revealing that many physiological effects are seen. H2S seems to have effects on stomatal apertures. Intracellular effects include increases in glutathione levels, alterations of enzyme activities and influences on NO and H2O2 metabolism. Work in animals has shown that H2S may have direct effects on thiol modifications of cysteine groups, work that will no doubt inform future studies in plants. It appears therefore, that instead of thinking of H2S as a phytotoxin, it needs to be considered as a signalling molecule that interacts with reactive oxygen species and NO metabolism, as well as having direct effects on the activity of proteins. The future may see H2S being used to modulate plant physiology in the field or to protect crops from postharvest spoilage. This paper highlights the effects of hydrogen sulfide on plants, and discusses the evidence that this gas can be considered as a signalling molecule. Plants can be shown to generate hydrogen sulfide and respond to it, with recent work pointing to the possibility that hydrogen sulfide may modify protein thiol groups. This would mean that hydrogen sulfide may be in competition with reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide in its potential signalling role. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Lisjak, M., Lisjak, M., Teklic, T., Wilson, I. D., Whiteman, M., & Hancock, J. T. (2013). Hydrogen sulfide: Environmental factor or signalling molecule?. Plant, Cell and Environment, 36(9), 1607-1616.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2013
Journal Plant, Cell and Environment
Print ISSN 0140-7791
Electronic ISSN 1365-3040
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 9
Pages 1607-1616
Keywords hydrogen sulfide, nitric oxide, plant stress, GYY4137,
hydrogen peroxide, NaSH, signalling molecule
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