Hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) is an important modulator of many aspects of digestive function, both in health and disease. Colonic tissue H(2)S synthesis increases markedly during injury and inflammation and appears to contribute to resolution. Some of the bacteria residing in the colon can also produce H(2)S. The extent to which bacterial H(2)S synthesis contributes to what is measured as colonic H(2)S synthesis is not clear. Using conventional and germ-free mice, we have delineated the eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic contributions to colonic H(2)S synthesis, both in healthy and colitic mice. Colonic tissue H(2)S production is entirely dependent on the presence of the cofactor pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (vitamin B(6)), while bacterial H(2)S synthesis appears to occur independent of this cofactor. As expected, approximately one-half of the H(2)S produced by feces is derived from eukaryotic cells. While colonic H(2)S synthesis is markedly increased when the tissue is inflamed, and, in proportion to the extent of inflammation, fecal H(2)S synthesis does not change and tissue granulocytes do not appear to be the source of the elevated H(2)S production. Rats fed a B vitamin-deficient diet for 6 wk exhibited significantly diminished colonic H(2)S synthesis, but fecal H(2)S synthesis was not different from that of rats on the control diet. Our results demonstrate that H(2)S production by colonic bacteria does not contribute significantly to what is measured as colonic tissue H(2)S production, using the acetate trapping assay system employed in this study.