“On demand” redox buffering by H2S contributes to antibiotic resistance revealed by a bacteria-specific H2S donor†
Understanding the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will help launch a counter-offensive against human pathogens that threaten our ability to effectively treat common infections. Herein, we report bis(4-nitrobenzyl)sulfanes, which are activated by a bacterial enzyme to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. We found that H2S helps maintain redox homeostasis and protects bacteria against antibiotic-triggered oxidative stress “on demand”, through activation of alternate respiratory oxidases and cellular antioxidants. We discovered, a hitherto unknown role for this gas, that chemical inhibition of H2S biosynthesis reversed antibiotic resistance in multidrug-resistant (MDR) uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains of clinical origin, whereas exposure to the H2S donor restored drug tolerance. Together, our study provides a greater insight into the dynamic defence mechanisms of this gas, modes of antibiotic action as well as resistance while progressing towards new pharmacological targets to address AMR.