Gastrointestinal and microbial responses to sulfate-supplemented drinking water in mice

Bart Deplancke, Kai Finster, W. Vallen Graham, Chad T. Collier, Joel E. Thurmond, H. Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing evidence that hydrogen sulfide (H2S), produced by intestinal sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), may be involved in the etiopathogenesis of chronic diseases such as ulcerative colitis and colorectal cancer. The activity of SRB, and thus H2S production, is likely determined by the availability of sulfur-containing compounds in the intestine. However, little is known about the impact of dietary or inorganic sulfate on intestinal sulfate and SRB-derived H2S concentrations. In this study, the effects of short-term (7 day) and long-term (1 year) inorganic sulfate supplementation of the drinking water on gastrointestinal (GI) sulfate and H2S concentrations (and thus activity of resident SRBs), and the density of large intestinal sulfomucin-containing goblet cells, were examined in C3H/HeJBir mice. Additionally, a PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE)-based molecular ecology technique was used to examine the impact of sulfate-amended drinking water on microbial community structure throughout the GI tract. Average H2S concentrations ranged from 0.1 mM (stomach) to 1 mM (cecum). A sulfate reduction assay demonstrated in situ production of H2S throughout the GI tract, confirming the presence of SRB. However, H2S generation and concentrations were greatest in the cecum and colon. Sulfate supplementation of drinking water did not significantly increase intestinal sulfate or H2S concentrations, suggesting that inorganic sulfate is not an important modulator of intestinal H2S concentrations, although it altered the bacterial profiles of the stomach and distal colon of 1-year-old mice. This change in colonic bacterial profiles may reflect a corresponding increase in the density of sulfomucin-containing goblet cells in sulfate-supplemented compared with control mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-433
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria
  • Sulfomucins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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