DMSP-producing bacteria are more abundant in the surface microlayer than subsurface seawater of the East China Sea

Hao Sun, Yunhui Zhang, Siyin Tan, Yanfen Zheng, Shun Zhou, Qianyao Ma, Gui-Peng Yang, Jonathan Todd, Xiao-Hua Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Microbial production and catabolism of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), generating the climatically active gases dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and methanethiol (MeSH), have key roles in global carbon and sulfur cycling, chemotaxis, and atmospheric chemistry. Microorganisms in the sea surface microlayer (SML), the interface between seawater and atmosphere, likely play an important role in the generation of DMS and MeSH and their exchange to the atmosphere, but little is known about these SML microorganisms. Here, we investigated the differences between bacterial community structure and the distribution and transcription profiles of the key bacterial DMSP synthesis (dsyB and mmtN) and catabolic (dmdA and dddP) genes in East China Sea SML and subsurface seawater (SSW) samples. Per equivalent volume, bacteria were far more abundant (~ 7.5-fold) in SML than SSW, as were those genera predicted to produce DMSP. Indeed, dsyB (~ 7-fold) and mmtN (~ 4-fold), robust reporters for bacterial DMSP production, were also far more abundant in SML than SSW. In addition, the SML had higher dsyB transcripts (~ 3-fold) than SSW samples, which may contribute to the significantly higher DMSP level observed in SML compared with SSW. Furthermore, the abundance of bacteria with dmdA and their transcription were higher in SML than SSW samples. Bacteria with dddP and transcripts were also prominent, but less than dmdA and presented at similar levels in both layers. These data indicate that the SML might be an important hotspot for bacterial DMSP production as well as generating the climatically active gases DMS and MeSH, a portion of which are likely transferred to the atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-365
Number of pages16
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
Early online date25 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • DMSP
  • DMS
  • seasurface microlayer
  • Biosynthesis and catabolism
  • East China Sea
  • Subsurface water
  • Surface microlayer
  • Bacterial community

Cite this