Hydrogen sulfide as an oxygen sensor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


The ability to monitor oxygen (O2) availability and delivery is crucial to an animal's survival. Vertebrates have a number of O2 'sensing' cells that monitor environmental oxygen and ensure adequate delivery to the tissues. While there is little doubt that these cells perform important homeostatic functions, there is little consensus on how a change in O 2 concentration, or partial pressure (pO2), is transduced into a physiological response. We recently proposed that the metabolism of hydrogen sulfide (H2 S) functions as the O2 sensor in a variety of tissues. In this mechanism, the concentration of biologically active H2 S is regulated by the simple balance between constitutive H 2 S production and its oxidation by mitochondria. This hypothesis is supported by a number of experimental observations in a wide range of O 2 sensing tissues: 1) exogenous H2 S produces the same physiological response as hypoxia; 2) cellular H2 S production is inversely related to pO2 at physiologically relevant pO2 s; 3) agonists and antagonists of H2 S biosynthesis augment and inhibit hypoxic responses, respectively; and 4) H2 S and hypoxia appear to act via common effector pathways. The reciprocal relationship between H2 S and O2 also has a long evolutionary history suggesting these gases have been inexorably intertwined throughout evolution. The intent of this review is to elaborate on the mechanism of H2 S-mediated O2 sensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-632
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Carotid body
  • Cysteine
  • Hypoxia
  • Thiosulfate
  • Vascular smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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