Dimethylsulfoniopropionate biosynthesis in marine bacteria and identification of the key gene in this process

Andrew R. J. Curson (Lead Author), Ji Liu, Ana Bermejo Martinez, Robert T. Green, Yohan Chan, Ornella Carrión, Beth T. Williams, Sheng-Hui Zhang, Gui-Peng Yang, Philip C. Bulman Page, Xiao-Hua Zhang, Jonathan D. Todd (Lead Author)

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Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) is one of the Earth’s most abundant organosulphur molecules, a signalling molecule, a key nutrient for marine microorganisms, and the major precursor for gaseous dimethyl sulphide (DMS). DMS, another infochemical in signalling pathways, is important in global sulphur cycling2, and affects the Earth’s albedo, and potentially climate, via sulphate aerosol and cloud condensation nuclei production. It was thought that only eukaryotes produce significant amounts of DMSP, but here we demonstrate that many marine heterotrophic bacteria also produce DMSP, likely using the same methionine (Met) transamination pathway as macroalgae and phytoplankton10. We identify the first DMSP synthesis gene in any organism, dsyB, which encodes the key methyltransferase enzyme of this pathway and is a reliable reporter for bacterial DMSP synthesis in marine alphaproteobacteria. DMSP production and dsyB transcription are upregulated by increased salinity, nitrogen limitation and lower temperatures in our model DMSP-producing bacterium Labrenzia aggregata LZB033. With significant numbers of dsyB homologues in marine metagenomes, we propose that bacteria likely make a significant contribution to oceanic DMSP production. Furthermore, since DMSP production is not solely associated with obligate phototrophs, the process need not be confined to the photic zones of marine environments, and as such may have been underestimated
Original languageEnglish
Article number17009
JournalNature Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2017


  • DMSP
  • sulfur
  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Bacteria
  • marine microbiology

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