Hydrogen sulfide induces apoptosis in human periodontium cells

J. H. Zhang, Z. Dong, L. Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Background and Objective: The existence of hydrogen sulfide (H 2S) at high concentrations in periodontal pockets is a characteristic feature of periodontitis. Periodontal pathogens play a key role in the production of H2S under these etiology conditions. This study was designed to examine the cytotoxicity of H2S in periodontium cells, including human periodontal ligament (PDL) cells and human gingival fibroblasts (HGFs), as well as the role of H2S in apoptosis induction. Material and Methods: Human PDL cells and HGFs were cultured in the presence of Na 2S/HCl or in the presence of H2S produced enzymatically by the action of Treponema denticola cystalysin (l-cysteine desulfhydrase) on l-cysteine. Apoptosis was assessed morphologically after nuclear staining with DAPI or was quantified by flow cytometry after staining with annexin V. Caspase activation was measured by an enzymatic assay using DEVD-AMC, a synthetic caspase substrate. Results: Among the three products obtained following degradation of l-cysteine by T. denticola cystalysin, only H2S induced significant apoptosis in HGF cells. Hydrogen sulfide also induced typical apoptotic morphology in cultured PDL cells. The changes were dependent on the H2S dose and on the treatment time with H2S. Hydrogen sulfide-induced apoptosis was also confirmed by staining with annexin V and propidium iodide. In addition, treatment with H2S led to caspase activation in these cells. Conclusion: These results showed that physiological concentrations of H2S can induce apoptosis of PDL cells and HGFs in periodontitis, suggesting that H2S may play an important role in periodontal tissue damage in periodontal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Periodontal Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • Cystalysin
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Periodontium cells
  • Treponema denticola

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Periodontics


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