Despite its reputation as a toxic and foul-smelling gas, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is an important signaling molecule that plays a role in nearly every organ in the body. H2S therapy is a growing area of research, with studies showing efficacy in many animal models of disease, including cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, and cancer. However, outcomes appear to depend heavily on the duration and rate of H2S delivery. To fully understand the physiological roles of H2S, to measure its effects on different organs and systems, and to achieve its therapeutic potential, novel methods for delivering H2S with control over the timing, location, rate, and duration of delivery are needed. The long-term goal of this project is to treat diseases by delivery of exogenous H2S; however, chemical tools must first be developed that will enable controlled delivery. These tools, which will provide methods to probe H2S physiology in a variety of diseases, include both enzyme- triggered H2S-releasing prodrugs (control over timing and location of delivery) and H2S releasing micelles with tunable release rates (control over rate and duration of delivery). Through the following specific aims these new chemical tools will be prepared and tested in a biologically relevant application of H2S in cancer therapy: 1. Synthesize enzyme-triggered H2S prodrugs with high specificity This aim will focus on synthesis of small molecules that release H2S only in the presence of specific enzymes, including proteases, esterases, and azoreductases, all of which are upregulated in response to specific diseases that may benefit from H2S treatment. 2. Develop biodegradable H2S-releasing polymer micelles with tunable release rates In this aim H2S release rate will be controlled using a polymer micelle platform. Micelles were chosen due to the many factors that can be controlled to tune H2S release kinetics, including size, shape, critical micelle concentration, and unimer exchange rates. 3. Use these tools to answer controversial biological questions regarding the roles of H2S in the inhibition/promotion of cancer cell proliferation The role of H2S in cancer is complex?it can either inhibit or promote cancer cell growth depending on the rate, dose, and duration of release. The prodrugs and micelles will be tested as anti-cancer agents to measure how release rate affects toxicity and selectivity toward cancer cells over normal cells. The H2S delivery methods proposed here will increase our understanding of the signaling roles that endogenous H2S plays in mammalian biology. Also, we expect that these strategies for controlling timing, location, rate, and duration of H2S delivery will inspire new methods for controlled delivery of other signaling gases. In summary, the studies proposed here will elevate the therapeutic potential of H2S, furthering a research program that may lead to H2S therapies with low toxicity, few side effects, and high efficacy.

Public Health Relevance

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a powerful signaling gas with great therapeutic potential in a variety of diseases and conditions, but to realize the benefits of H2S therapy it must be delivered with control over the location, timing, rate, and duration of release. This project focuses on developing chemical tools for both understanding H2S biology and treating diseases with H2S, creating drug delivery vehicles that can be triggered by specific enzymes to release the gas. The results of this work will enable researchers to apply the chemical tools developed here to better understand the biological roles of H2S and to treat diseases and conditions that may benefit from H2S therapy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Synthetic and Biological Chemistry A Study Section (SBCA)
Program Officer
Aslan, Kadir
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Gheibi, Sevda; Jeddi, Sajad; Kashfi, Khosrow et al. (2018) Regulation of vascular tone homeostasis by NO and H2S: Implications in hypertension. Biochem Pharmacol 149:42-59
Kaur, Kuljeet; Qian, Yun; Gandour, Richard D et al. (2018) Hydrolytic Decomposition of S-Aroylthiooximes: Effect of pH and N-Arylidene Substitution on Reaction Rate. J Org Chem 83:13363-13369
Wang, Yin; Kaur, Kuljeet; Scannelli, Samantha J et al. (2018) Self-Assembled Nanostructures Regulate H2S Release from Constitutionally Isomeric Peptides. J Am Chem Soc 140:14945-14951
Powell, Chadwick R; Dillon, Kearsley M; Wang, Yin et al. (2018) A Persulfide Donor Responsive to Reactive Oxygen Species: Insights into Reactivity and Therapeutic Potential. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 57:6324-6328
Powell, Chadwick R; Dillon, Kearsley M; Matson, John B (2018) A review of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) donors: Chemistry and potential therapeutic applications. Biochem Pharmacol 149:110-123
Kashfi, Khosrow (2018) The dichotomous role of H2S in cancer cell biology? Déjà vu all over again. Biochem Pharmacol 149:205-223