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Published: Kem. Ind. 67 (5-6) (2018) 207–218
Paper reference number: KUI-23/2017
Paper type: Review
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Inorganic Sulphur Compounds in the Human Body. II. Thiocyanates.

S. Stanković and R. Kiralj


Sulphur is the most abundant microelement in the human body, in the form not only of many organic but also of many inorganic compounds with diverse roles. This review presents inorganic sulphur compounds from the class of endogenous thiocyanate compounds present in the human body. The class is primarily produced from the thiocyanate anion SCN in enzymatic and non-enzymatic reactions in cells or in extracellular matrix. SCN is formed by detoxication of endogenous or exogenous cyanides, by action of the endogenous bacterial flora, in the metabolism of cyanogenic food, and during industrial intoxication. Molecular and ionic compounds are: thiocyanic, isothiocyanic, hypothiocyanic, (cyanido-C)sulphinic and (cyanido-C)sulphonic acid; salts of these acids and the anion 1,2,3-tricyanotrisulfide(1–) with the most abundant cations in the organism (Na+, K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+); cyano thiocyanate and bis[(cyanido-C)sulphur](S-S) (thiocyanogen). The anions and molecules are endogenous reactive sulphur species with pseudohalogen properties. They exist in significant concentrations in body fluids, in which they have protective roles – detoxication (removal of cyanide) and antimicrobial functions (microbicidal and microbiostatic effect on various bacteria, some viruses, fungi and parasites). They are metabolically coupled with endogenous oxo-sulphur compounds in the human body. It is to be expected that investigations on the described class of sulphur compounds in the near future will explain molecular mechanisms of their action in the human body.

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thiocyanates, hypothiocyanates, cyano thiocyanate, thiocyanogen, trithiocyanates, intermediates of hypothiocyanate decomposition