Improved growth of pea, lettuce, and radish plants using the slow release of hydrogen sulfide from GYY-4137. Completed Grant Report


Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a key gasotransmitter in agriculture and has been reported to increase the growth of plants in the first two weeks and to mitigate the effects of environmental stressors. GYY-4137 is widely used in these studies because it slowly releases H2S, but there is disagreement as to whether it requires enzymes to release H2S. In this article we describe the release of H2S in water without enzymes and that it releases H2S faster in organic solvents than in water or when mixed in topsoil. Furthermore, we describe the long-term effect of dosing pea, radish, and lettuce plants with GYY-4137 for up to six weeks. The effect of GYY-4137 on plant growth for six weeks was either positive or negative depending on the loading of GYY-4137 and how it was applied to plants. The addition of GYY-4137 to lettuce plants via potting mix resulted in reduced growth and death of the plants. In contrast, application of GYY-4137 to the leaves of lettuce plants increased the harvest weight of the leaves by up to 86%. Our results demonstrate that GYY-4137 can have a positive, important effect on the growth of plants but that this effect is dependent on several factors.

Key Question

Does GYY-4137 require enzymes to release H2S, a key gasotransmitter reported to increase plant growth and mitigate effectors of environmental stressors?


The hydrolysis of GYY-4137 is complex and proceeds significantly faster in organic solvents than in water. This demonstrated the importance of considering the local environment of GYY-4137 when used in agricultural studies and also further demonstrated that GYY-4137 does release H2S by hydrolysis in water. The rate of release of H2S from GYY-4137 is not straightforward and may involve its uptake into plants through the roots or leaves. This work demonstrated that H2S has the potential to increase the harvest yields of radishes and lettuce. Importantly, only milligram quantities of H2S were needed to have a large effect on the growth of these crops, but the location and number of times GYY-4137 needed to be applied differed for the crops. Although this work was completed in a greenhouse, it may have implications for the growth of crops in agricultural fields.

Principal Investigator(s)

Ned B. Bowden, University of Iowa


Justin M. Cater, University of Iowa; Eric M. Brown, University of Iowa; James P. Grace, University of Iowa; Aliasger K. Salem, University of Iowa; Erin E. Irish, University of Iowa

Year of Grant Completion


Link to Published Article

Carter JM, Brown EM, Grace JP, Salem AK, Irish EE, Bowden NB (2018) Improved growth of pea, lettuce, and radish plants using the slow release of hydrogen sulfide from GYY-4137. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208732. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208732

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