Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a real signaling molecule in plant---an emerging story discovered by Chen's Lab in IFQS

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is considered as the third gasotransmitter in medical biology after nitric oxide (NO) and carbon monoxide (CO). The detailed studies in the biological role of H2S in plants are very limited compared to those in mammals. The recent reports have suggested that exogenous application of H2S can regulate multiple important physiological process in plants, but whether and how endogenous H2S acts as a real plant signaling molecule remains obscure because of the lack of data of tracking endogenous H2S in situ in plants.

The Lab of Jian Chen (Chen’s Lab) from Institute of Food Quality and Safety (IFQS) in JAAS have just overcome the above obstacle by cooperating with Dr. Ming Xian from Washington State University in USA. Dr. Ming Xian has developed WSP-1 (Washington State Probe-1), which is a pretty novel fluorescent probe for specifically detecting endogenous H2S in mammalian cells with high efficiency and selectivity. By using tomato root, the model system for studying lateral root development, Chen’s Lab has tracked endogenous H2S successfully in the cells of tomato root by using WSP-1. Coupling with the application of other two specific fluorescent probes for detecting endogenous NO and Ca2+, the crosstalk among H2S, NO, and Ca2+ has been well established in controlling lateral root development. To date, this is the first report of identifying the nature of H2S as a real signaling molecule plant. This study opens a new window for uncovering the biological function of H2S in plants, which will definitely speed up the study of H2S as a novel regulatory star in plants.
The research has been published online in PLOS ONE on February 17, 2014, which can be accessed at

Abstract (of the published paper)
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is an important gasotransmitter in mammals. Despite physiological changes induced by exogenous H2S donor NaHS to plants, whether and how H2S works as a true cellular signal in plants need to be examined. A self-developed specific fluorescent probe (WSP-1) was applied to track endogenous H2S in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) roots in site. Bioimaging combined with pharmacological and biochemical approaches were used to investigate the cross-talk among H2S, nitric oxide (NO), and Ca2+ in regulating lateral root formation. Endogenous H2S accumulation was clearly associated with primordium initiation and lateral root emergence. NO donor SNP stimulated the generation of endogenous H2S and the expression of the gene coding for the enzyme responsible for endogenous H2S synthesis. Scavenging H2S or inhibiting H2S synthesis partially blocked SNP-induced lateral root formation and the expression of lateral root-related genes. The stimulatory effect of SNP on Ca2+ accumulation and CaM1 (calmodulin 1) expression could be abolished by inhibiting H2S synthesis. Ca2+ chelator or Ca2+ channel blocker attenuated NaHS-induced lateral root formation. Our study confirmed the role of H2S as a cellular signal in plants being a mediator between NO and Ca2+ in regulating lateral root formation.

Read the paper