Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 409, Issue 18, pp 4409–4423 | Cite as

The relative abundance of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) among other zwitterions in branching coral at Heron Island, southern Great Barrier Reef

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


Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and eleven other target zwitterions were quantified in the branch tips of six Acropora species and Stylophora pistillata hard coral growing on the reef flat surrounding Heron Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. Hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (HILIC-MS) was used for sample analysis with isotope dilution MS applied to quantify DMSP. The concentration of DMSP was ten times greater in A. aspera than A. valida, with this difference being maintained throughout the spring, summer and winter seasons. In contrast, glycine betaine was present in significantly higher concentrations in these species during the summer than the winter. Exposure of branch tips of A. aspera to air and hypo-saline seawater for up to 1 h did not alter the concentrations of DMSP present in the coral when compared with control samples. DMSP was the most abundant target zwitterion in the six Acropora species examined, ranging from 44-78% of all target zwitterions in A. millepora and A. aspera, respectively. In contrast, DMSP only accounted for 7% in S. pistillata, with glycine betaine and stachydrine collectively accounting for 88% of all target zwitterions in this species. The abundance of DMSP in the six Acropora species examined points to Acropora coral being an important source for the biogeochemical cycling of sulfur throughout the GBR, since this reef-building branching coral dominates the coral cover of the GBR.

Graphical Abstract

HILIC-MS extracted ion chromatogram showing zwitterionic metabolites from the branching coral Acropora isopora


Betaines Coral DMSP Liquid chromatography Mass spectrometry Zwitterions 



This research was partially funded from Australian Research Council Discovery Program (ARCDP) grant DP150101649 to Professor Zoran Ristovski, Queensland University of Technology and A/Professor G.B. Jones, Southern Cross University (SCU). Additional funding was provided by the Marine Ecology Research Centre of SCU, and ARCDP grants DP110103638 and DP150102092 awarded to Professor B.D. Eyre. H.B. Swan would like to thank Agrifor Scientific (Sydney, Australia) for use of analytical equipment, and the National Measurement Institute, Australia for providing the DMSP.HCl and d 6 -DMSP.HCl chemical standards. All authors thank the staff of the Heron Island Research Station for assistance with our experimental needs, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for provision of permits to collect coral, and Prof. Peter Harrison (SCU) for coral species identification.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2017_385_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (128 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 127 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

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

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