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It has been proposed that endogenous H(2)S mediates oxygen sensing in chemoreceptors; this study investigates the mechanisms by which H(2)S excites carotid body type 1 cells. H(2)S caused a rapid reversible increase in intracellular calcium with EC(50) ≈ 6 μM. This [Ca(2+)](i) response was abolished in Ca-free Tyrode. In perforated patch current clamp recordings, H(2)S depolarised type 1 cells from -59 to -35 mV; this was accompanied by a robust increase in [Ca(2+)](i). Voltage clamping at the resting membrane potential abolished the H(2)S-induced rise in [Ca(2+)](i). H(2)S inhibited background K(+) current in whole cell perforated patch and reduced background K(+) channel activity in cell-attached patch recordings. It is concluded that H(2)S excites type 1 cells through the inhibition of background (TASK) potassium channels leading to membrane depolarisation and voltage-gated Ca(2+) entry. These effects mimic those of hypoxia. H(2)S also inhibited mitochondrial function over a similar concentration range as assessed by NADH autofluorescence and measurement of intracellular magnesium (an index of decline in MgATP). Cyanide inhibited background K channels to a similar extent to H(2)S and prevented H(2)S exerting any further influence over channel activity. These data indicate that the effects of H(2)S on background K channels are a consequence of inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation. Whilst this does not preclude a role for endogenous H(2)S in oxygen sensing via the inhibition of cytochrome oxidase, the levels of H(2)S required raise questions as to the viability of such a mechanism.

Original publication




Journal article


Pflugers Arch

Publication Date





743 - 754


Animals, Calcium, Calcium Signaling, Carotid Body, Chemoreceptor Cells, Electron Transport Complex IV, Hydrogen Sulfide, Hypoxia, Magnesium, Membrane Potentials, Mitochondria, NAD, Oxidative Phosphorylation, Oxygen, Potassium, Potassium Channels, Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain, Rats