• Open Access

Sulfide- and nitrite-dependent nitric oxide production in the intestinal tract


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In the gut ecosystem, nitric oxide (NO) has been described to have damaging effects on the energy metabolism of colonocytes. Described mechanisms of NO production are microbial reduction of nitrate via nitrite to NO and conversion of l-arginine by NO synthase. The aim of this study was to investigate whether dietary compounds can stimulate the production of NO by representative cultures of the human intestinal microbiota and whether this correlates to other processes in the intestinal tract. We have found that the addition of a reduced sulfur compound, i.e. cysteine, contributed to NO formation. This increase was ascribed to higher sulfide concentrations generated from cysteine that in turn promoted the chemical conversion of nitrite to NO. The NO release from nitrite was of the order of 4‰ at most. Overall, it was shown that two independent biological processes contribute to the chemical formation of NO in the intestinal tract: (i) the production of sulfide by fermentation of sulfur containing amino acids or reduction of sulfate by sulfate reducing bacteria, and (ii) the reduction of nitrate to nitrite. Our results indicate that dietary thiol compounds in combination with nitrate may contribute to colonocytes damaging processes by promoting NO formation.