Oxidation of methanethiol (MT) is a significant step in the sulfur cycle. MT is an intermediate of metabolism of globally significant organosulfur compounds including dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethylsulfide (DMS), which have key roles in marine carbon and sulfur cycling. In aerobic bacteria, MT is degraded by a methanethiol oxidase (MTO). The enzymatic and genetic basis of MT oxidation have remained poorly characterized. Here we identify for the first time the MTO enzyme and its encoding gene (mtoX) in the DMS-degrading bacterium Hyphomicrobium sp. VS. We show that MTO is a homotetrameric metalloenzyme that requires Cu for enzyme activity. MTO is predicted to be a soluble periplasmic enzyme and a member of a distinct clade of the Selenium-binding protein (SBP56) family for which no function has been reported. Genes orthologous to mtoX exist in many bacteria able to degrade DMS, other one-carbon compounds or DMSP, notably in the marine model organism Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3, a member of the Rhodobacteraceae family which is abundant in marine environments. Marker exchange mutagenesis of mtoX disrupted the ability of R. pomeroyi to metabolise MT confirming its function in this DMSP-degrading bacterium. In R. pomeroyi, transcription of mtoX was enhanced by DMSP, methylmercaptopropionate and MT. Rates of MT degradation increased after preincubation of the wildtype strain with MT. The detection of mtoX orthologues in diverse bacteria, environmental samples and its abundance in a range of metagenomic datasets point to this enzyme being widely distributed in the environment and playing a key role in global sulfur cycling.
- methanethiol (MeSH)
- Methanethiol oxidase