Macromolecular hydrogen sulfide donors trigger spatiotemporally confined changes in cell signaling

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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is involved in a myriad of cell signaling processes that trigger physiological events ranging from vasodilation to cell proliferation. Moreover, disturbances to H2S signaling have been associated with numerous pathologies. As such, the ability to release H2S in a cellular environment and stimulate signaling events is of considerable interest. Herein we report the synthesis of macromolecular H2S donors capable of stimulating cell signaling pathways in both the cytosol and at the cell membrane. Specifically, copolymers having pendent oligo(ethylene glycol) and benzonitrile groups were synthesized, and the benzonitrile groups were subsequently transformed into primary aryl thioamide groups via thionation using sodium hydrosulfide. These thioamide moieties could be incorporated into a hydrophilic copolymer or a block copolymer (i.e., into either the hydrophilic or hydrophobic domain). An electrochemical sensor was used to demonstrate release of H2S under simulated physiological conditions. Subsequent treatment of HEK293 cells with a macromolecular H2S donor elicited a slow and sustained increase in cytosolic ERK signaling, as monitored using a FRET-based biosensor. The macromolecular donor was also shown to induce a small, fast and sustained increase in plasma membrane-localized PKC activity immediately following addition to cells. Studies using an H2S-selective fluorescent probe in live cells confirmed release of H2S from the macromolecular donor over physiologically relevant time scales consistent with the signaling observations. Taken together, these results demonstrate that by using macromolecular H2S donors it is possible to trigger spatiotemporally confined cell signaling events. Moreover, the localized nature of the observed signaling suggests that macromolecular donor design may provide an approach for selectively stimulating certain cellular biochemical pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-383
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2016

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