Bacterial dimethylsulfoniopropionate biosynthesis in the East China Sea

Ji Liu, Yunhui Zhang, Jingli Liu, Haohui Zhong, Beth T. Williams, Yanfen Zheng, Andrew R. J. Curson, Chuang Sun, Hao Sun, Delei Song, Brett Wagner Mackenzie, Ana Bermejo Martínez, Jonathan D. Todd, Xiao-Hua Zhang

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Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is one of Earth’s most abundant organosulfur molecules. Recently, many marine heterotrophic bacteria were shown to produce DMSP, but few studies have combined culture-dependent and independent techniques to study their abundance, distribution, diversity and activity in seawater or sediment environments. Here we investigate bacterial DMSP production potential in East China Sea (ECS) samples. Total DMSP (DMSPt) concentration in ECS seawater was highest in surface waters (SW) where phytoplankton were most abundant, and it decreased with depth to near bottom waters. However, the percentage of DMSPt mainly apportioned to bacteria increased from the surface to the near bottom water. The highest DMSP concentration was detected in ECS oxic surface sediment (OSS) where phytoplankton were not abundant. Bacteria with the genetic potential to produce DMSP and relevant biosynthesis gene transcripts were prominent in all ECS seawater and sediment samples. Their abundance also increased with depth and was highest in the OSS samples. Microbial enrichments for DMSP-producing bacteria from sediment and seawater identified many novel taxonomic groups of DMSP-producing bacteria. Different profiles of DMSP-producing bacteria existed between seawater and sediment samples and there are still novel DMSP-producing bacterial groups to be discovered in these environments. This study shows that heterotrophic bacteria significantly contribute to the marine DMSP pool and that their contribution increases with water depth and is highest in seabed surface sediment where DMSP catabolic potential is lowest. Furthermore, distinct bacterial groups likely produce DMSP in seawater and sediment samples, and many novel producing taxa exist, especially in the sediment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number657
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • Bacteria
  • DMSP biosynthesis
  • Sediment

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