Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology & Forensic Medicine, Human Anatomy Section, University of Parma, Ospedale Maggiore, Via Gramsci, 14, I-43100 Parma, Italy.
The toxic effects of exogenous hydrogen sulfide on peripheral blood lymphocytes have been investigated in detail. Hydrogen sulfide is now considered as a gasotransmitter with specific functional roles in different cell types, like neurons and vascular smooth muscle. Here we show that exogenous hydrogen sulfide induces a caspase-independent cell death of peripheral blood lymphocytes that depends on their intracellular glutathione levels, with a physiologically relevant subset specificity for CD8+ T cells and NK cells. Although lymphocyte activation does not modify their sensitivity to HS-, after 24 h exposure to hydrogen sulfide surviving lymphocyte subsets show a dramatically decreased proliferation in response to mitogens and a reduced IL-2 production. Overall, our data demonstrate that HS- reduces the cellular cytotoxic response of peripheral blood lymphocytes as well as their production of IL-2, therefore de-activating the major players of local inflammatory responses, adding new basic knowledge to the clinically well known anti-inflammatory effects of sulfur compounds.