Determinations of dimethylsulphonio-propionate (DMSP) lyase activity using headspace analysis of dimethylsulphide (DMS)

M. Steinke, G. Malin, S. M. Turner, P. S. Liss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The osmolyte dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) can be enzymatically cleaved to dimethylsulphide (DMS), acrylate and a proton. The enzyme involved in this reaction is dimethylpropiothetin dethiomethylase (DMSP lyase; enzyme classification number Although the importance of this reaction for the global sulphur cycle, the influence of DMS on atmospheric acidity and the possible effect on climate regulation have been widely recognised, our knowledge of DMSP lyases is limited to just a few studies. Activity measurements of DMSP lyases offer an important step towards a better understanding of the conditions under which DMS is produced. In the available published data somewhat similar methods have been used before, but a critical examination of the method limitations has not been reported. To encourage further research on this enzyme, we suggest and detail two protocols for measurements of DMSP lyase activity: An in vitro assay for crude cell extracts or purified enzyme and an in vivo method for whole cells, which we recently started to use. After addition of DMSP, samples incubated in a gas tight vial may produce DMS from enzymatic cleavage under suitable conditions, and a DMS production rate can be estimated from time-series measurements of DMS in the headspace of the vial. Headspace analysis of DMS is a useful and rapid technique to estimate and compare DMSP lyase activities from different sources. The relative rates of DMS production in the liquid and of the gas transfer between liquid and headspace, determine the rate of DMS production measured via headspace analysis. If DMS production in the liquid is higher than the rate of transfer, headspace measurements will not reflect the actual amount of DMS produced in the liquid. In this case, extracts have to be diluted to a level that ensures linearity between dilution factor and reduction of enzyme activity. Additionally, incubation volumes and vials should be selected to provide a high surface-to-volume ratio to ensure maximum flux of DMS from the aqueous phase into the headspace. The methods can be adapted to further investigate species- and strain-specific activities, biogeographical distribution, cellular location and biochemical properties of various DMSP lyases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2000

Cite this