The abundant marine bacterium Pelagibacter simultaneously catabolizes dimethylsulfoniopropionate to the gases dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol

Jing Sun, Jonathan D. Todd, J. Cameron Thrash, Yanping Qian, Michael C. Qian, Ben Temperton, Jiazhen Guo, Emily K. Fowler, Joshua T. Aldrich, Carrie D. Nicora, Mary S. Lipton, Richard D. Smith, Patrick De Leenheer, Samuel H. Payne, Andrew W.B. Johnston, Cleo L. Davie-Martin, Kimberly H. Halsey, Stephen J. Giovannoni

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Marine phytoplankton produce ~109 tons of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) per year1,2, an estimated 10% of which is catabolized by bacteria through the DMSP cleavage pathway to the climatically active gas dimethyl sulfide (DMS)3,4. SAR11 Alphaproteobacteria (order Pelagibacterales), the most abundant chemoorganotrophic bacteria in the oceans, have been shown to assimilate DMSP into biomass, thereby supplying this cell’s unusual requirement for reduced sulfur5,6. Here we report that Pelagibacter HTCC1062 produces the gas methanethiol (MeSH) and that simultaneously a second DMSP catabolic pathway, mediated by a cupin-like DMSP lyase, DddK, shunts as much as 59% of DMSP uptake to DMS production. We propose a model in which the allocation of DMSP between these pathways is kinetically controlled to release increasing amounts of DMS as the supply of DMSP exceeds cellular sulfur demands for biosynthesis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16065
JournalNature Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Microbial biooceanography
  • Microbial ecology

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