Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) may play a wide-ranging role in staving off aging, according to a paper published online ahead of print in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology. In this review article, a team from China explores the compound's plethora of potential anti-aging pathways.
"H2S has been gaining increasing attention as an important endogenous signaling molecule because of its significant effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems," the team writes. The evidence is mounting, they note, that hydrogen sulfide slows aging by inhibiting free-radical reactions, by activating SIRT1, an enzyme believed to be a regulator of lifespan, and probably through its interactions with a gene, klotho, which appears to have its own market basket of anti-aging activity.
Hydrogen sulfide is produced within the human body, and has a variety of important physiological effects. For example, it relaxes the vascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells, which is important to maintaining clean arteries as one ages, says first author Zhi-Sheng Jiang, of the University of South China, Hunan. It functions as an antioxidant. And it inhibits expression of pro-inflammatory factors, all of which "imply an important role in aging and age-associated diseases," according to the paper. For example, mice lacking CSE, the gene for an enzyme involved in producing H2S, manifest extensive, premature arteriosclerosis, an inevitable consequence of aging, says Jiang.