Genomic and functional genomic methods applied to both model organisms and natural communities have rapidly advanced understanding of bacterial dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) degradation in the ocean. The genes for the two main pathways in bacterial degradation, routing DMSP to distinctly different biogeochemical fates, have recently been identified. The genes , -, -, and - mediate the demethylation of DMSP and facilitate retention of carbon and sulfur in the marine microbial food web. The genes , -, -, -, -, and - mediate the cleavage of DMSP to dimethylsulfide (DMS), with important consequences for ocean-atmosphere sulfur flux. In ocean metagenomes, sufficient copies of these genes are present for ∼60% of surface ocean bacterial cells to directly participate in DMSP degradation. The factors that regulate these two competing pathways remain elusive, but gene transcription analyses of natural bacterioplankton communities are making headway in unraveling the intricacies of bacterial DMSP processing in the ocean.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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