Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 409, Issue 7, pp 1929–1942 | Cite as

Quantification of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in Acropora spp. of reef-building coral using mass spectrometry with deuterated internal standard

  • Hilton B. Swan
  • Elisabeth S. M. Deschaseaux
  • Graham B. Jones
  • Bradley D. Eyre
Research Paper


Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in scleractinian coral is usually analysed indirectly as dimethylsulfide (DMS) using gas chromatography (GC) with a sulfur-specific detector. We developed a headspace GC method for mass spectral analysis of DMSP in branching coral where hexa-deuterated DMSP (d6-DMSP) was added to samples and standards to optimise the analytical precision and quantitative accuracy. Using this indirect HS-GC-MS method, we show that common coral sample handling techniques did not alter DMSP concentrations in Acropora aspera and that endogenous DMS was insignificant compared to the store of DMSP in A. aspera. Field application of the indirect HS-GC-MS method in all seasons over a 5-year period at Heron Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef indicated that healthy colonies of A. aspera ordinarily seasonally conserve their branch tip store of DMSP; however, this store increased to a higher concentration under extended thermal stress conditions driven by a strong El Niño Southern Oscillation event. A liquid chromatography mass spectral method (LC-MS) was subsequently developed for direct analysis of DMSP in branching coral, also utilising the d6-DMSP internal standard. The quantitative comparison of DMSP in four species of Acropora coral by indirect HS-GC-MS and direct LC-MS analyses gave equivalent concentrations in A. aspera only; in the other three species, HS-GC-MS gave consistently higher concentrations, indicating that indirect analysis of DMSP may lead to artificially high values for some coral species.

Graphical Abstract

Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) was quantified in Acropora spp. of branching coral using deuterated stable isotope dilution mass spectrometry


Coral reefs DMSP Isotope dilution mass spectrometry Headspace gas chromatography Liquid chromatography 

Supplementary material

216_2016_141_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (144 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 143 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilton B. Swan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elisabeth S. M. Deschaseaux
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Graham B. Jones
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bradley D. Eyre
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Environment, Science and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  2. 2.Marine Ecology Research CentreSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Coastal BiogeochemistrySouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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