Dimethylsulfoniopropionate biosynthetic bacteria in the subseafloor sediments of the South China Sea

Yunhui Zhang, Kai Sun, Chuang Sun, Xiaochong Shi, Jonathan Todd, Xiao-Hua Zhang

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Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is one of Earth’s most abundant organosulfur molecules, and bacteria in marine sediments have been considered significant producers. However, the vertical profiles of DMSP content and DMSP-producing bacteria in subseafloor sediment have not been described. Here, we used culture-dependent and -independent methods to investigate microbial DMSP production and cycling potential in South China Sea (SCS) sediment. The DMSP content of SCS sediment decreased from 11.25 to 20.90 nmol g–1 in the surface to 0.56–2.08 nmol g–1 in the bottom layers of 8-m-deep subseafloor sediment cores (n = 10). Very few eukaryotic plastid sequences were detected in the sediment, supporting bacteria and not algae as important sediment DMSP producers. Known bacterial DMSP biosynthesis genes (dsyB and mmtN) were only predicted to be in 0.0007–0.0195% of sediment bacteria, but novel DMSP-producing isolates with potentially unknown DMSP synthesis genes and/or pathways were identified in these sediments, including Marinobacter (Gammaproteobacteria) and Erythrobacter (Alphaproteobacteria) sp. The abundance of bacteria with the potential to produce DMSP decreased with sediment depth and was extremely low at 690 cm. Furthermore, distinct DMSP-producing bacterial groups existed in surface and subseafloor sediment samples, and their abundance increased when samples were incubated under conditions known to enrich for DMSP-producing bacteria. Bacterial DMSP catabolic genes were also most abundant in the surface oxic sediments with high DMSP concentrations. This study extends the current knowledge of bacterial DMSP biosynthesis in marine sediments and implies that DMSP biosynthesis is not only confined to the surface oxic sediment zones. It highlights the importance of future work to uncover the DMSP biosynthesis genes/pathways in novel DMSP-producing bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Article number731524
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2021

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