Multiple enzymes can make hydrogen sulfide from cysteine in Treponema denticola

Linda Phillips, Lianrui Chu, David Kolodrubetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Treponema denticola is a spirochete that is involved in causing periodontal diseases. This bacterium can produce H2S from thiol compounds found in the gingival crevicular fluid. Determining how H2S is made by oral bacteria is important since this molecule is present at high levels in periodontally-diseased pockets and the biological effects of H2S can explain some of the pathologies seen in periodontitis. Thus, it is of interest to identify the enzyme, or enzymes, involved in the synthesis of H2S by T. denticola. We, and others, have previously identified and characterized a T. denticola cystalysin, called HlyA, which hydrolyzes cysteine into H2S (and pyruvate and ammonia). However, there have been no studies to show that HlyA is, or is not, the only pathway that T. denticola can use to make H2S. To address this question, allelic replacement mutagenesis was used to make a deletion mutant (ΔhlyA) in the gene encoding HlyA. The mutant produces the same amount of H2S from cysteine as do wild type spirochetes, indicating that T. denticola has at least one other enzyme that can generate H2S from cysteine. To identify candidates for this other enzyme, a BLASTp search of T. denticola strain 33520 was done. There was one gene that encoded an HlyA homolog so we named it HlyB. Recombinant His-tagged HlyB was expressed in E. coli and partially purified. This enzyme was able to make H2S from cysteine in vitro. To test the role of HlyB in vivo, an HlyB deletion mutant (ΔhlyB) was constructed in T. denticola. This mutant still made normal levels of H2S from cysteine, but a strain mutated in both hly genes (ΔhlyA ΔhlyB) synthesizes significantly less H2S from cysteine. We conclude that the HlyA and HlyB enzymes perform redundant functions in vivo and are the major contributors to H2S production in T. denticola. However, at least one other enzyme can still convert cysteine to H2S in the ΔhlyA ΔhlyB mutant. An in silico analysis that identifies candidate genes for this other enzyme is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102231
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Cystathionine-β-lyase
  • Cysteine catabolism
  • Hydrogen sulfide synthesis
  • Periodontal disease
  • Treponema denticola

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple enzymes can make hydrogen sulfide from cysteine in Treponema denticola'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this