Oceanospirillales containing the DMSP lyase DddD are key utilisers of carbon from DMSP in coastal seawater

Jingli Liu (Lead Author), Chun-Xu Xue, Jinyan Wang, Andrew T. Crombie, Ornella Carrión, Andrew W. B. Johnston, J. Colin Murrell, Ji Liu, Yanfen Zheng, Xiao-Hua Zhang, Jonathan D. Todd

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Background: Ubiquitous and diverse marine microorganisms utilise the abundant organosulfur molecule dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), the main precursor of the climate-active gas dimethylsulfide (DMS), as a source of carbon, sulfur and/or signalling molecules. However, it is currently difficult to discern which microbes actively catabolise DMSP in the environment, why they do so and the pathways used. Results: Here, a novel DNA-stable isotope probing (SIP) approach, where only the propionate and not the DMS moiety of DMSP was 13C-labelled, was strategically applied to identify key microorganisms actively using DMSP and also likely DMS as a carbon source, and their catabolic enzymes, in North Sea water. Metagenomic analysis of natural seawater suggested that Rhodobacterales (Roseobacter group) and SAR11 bacteria were the major microorganisms degrading DMSP via demethylation and, to a lesser extent, DddP-driven DMSP lysis pathways. However, neither Rhodobacterales and SAR11 bacteria nor their DMSP catabolic genes were prominently labelled in DNA-SIP experiments, suggesting they use DMSP as a sulfur source and/or in signalling pathways, and not primarily for carbon requirements. Instead, DNA-SIP identified gammaproteobacterial Oceanospirillales, e.g. Amphritea, and their DMSP lyase DddD as the dominant microorganisms/enzymes using DMSP as a carbon source. Supporting this, most gammaproteobacterial (with DddD) but few alphaproteobacterial seawater isolates grew on DMSP as sole carbon source and produced DMS. Furthermore, our DNA-SIP strategy also identified Methylophaga and other Piscirickettsiaceae as key bacteria likely using the DMS, generated from DMSP lysis, as a carbon source. Conclusions: This is the first study to use DNA-SIP with 13C-labelled DMSP and, in a novel way, it identifies the dominant microbes utilising DMSP and DMS as carbon sources. It highlights that whilst metagenomic analyses of marine environments can predict microorganisms/genes that degrade DMSP and DMS based on their abundance, it cannot disentangle those using these important organosulfur compounds for their carbon requirements. Note, the most abundant DMSP degraders, e.g. Rhodobacterales with DmdA, are not always the key microorganisms using DMSP for carbon and releasing DMS, which in this coastal system were Oceanospirillales containing DddD. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2022


  • Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP)
  • dimethylsulfide (DMS)
  • DNA-stable isotope probing (SIP)
  • Oceanospirillales
  • DddD DMSP lyase
  • seawater
  • biogeochemical sulfur cycling
  • Dimethylsulfide (DMS)
  • Biogeochemical sulfur cycling
  • DNA-stable isotope probing (DNA-SIP)
  • Seawater

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