Bacterial hydrogen sulfide drives cryptic redox chemistry in gut microbial communities

Sarah J. Wolfson, Reese Hitchings, Karina Peregrina, Ziv Cohen, Saad Khan, Tugba Yilmaz, Marcel Malena, Edgar D. Goluch, Leonard Augenlicht, Libusha Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Microbial biochemistry contributes to a dynamic environment in the gut. Yet, how bacterial metabolites such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S) mechanistically alter the gut chemical landscape is poorly understood. Here we show that microbially generated H2S drives the abiotic reduction of azo (R–N = N–R’) xenobiotics, which are commonly found in Western food dyes and drugs. This nonenzymatic reduction of azo compounds is demonstrated in Escherichia coli cultures, in human faecal microbial communities and in vivo in male mice. Changing dietary levels of the H2S xenobiotic redox partner Red 40 transiently decreases mouse faecal sulfide levels, demonstrating that a xenobiotic can attenuate sulfide concentration and alleviate H2S accumulation in vivo. Cryptic H2S redox chemistry thus can modulate sulfur homeostasis, alter the chemical landscape in the gut and contribute to azo food dye and drug metabolism. Interactions between chemicals derived from microbial communities may be a key feature shaping metabolism in the gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1270
Number of pages11
JournalNature Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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