, Volume 110, Issue 1–3, pp 121–130 | Cite as

Diversity of DMSP transport in marine bacteria, revealed by genetic analyses

  • Lei Sun
  • Andrew R. J. Curson
  • Jonathan D. Todd
  • Andrew W. B. Johnston


The enzyme product of the dddD gene, found in several different marine bacteria, acts on dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), liberating dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and generating 3-OH-propionate as the initially detected C3 product. In many bacteria, dddD is near genes whose sequence suggests that they encode a DMSP transporter. These are of two very different types, in the BCCT (betaine-carnitine-choline transporter) family or resembling members of the ABC super-family that import betaines. Even within these two families, the amino acid sequences of these putative transporters are not particularly similar to each other. Genes for the predicted DMSP transporters of Halomonas and Marinomonas (both BCCT type) and of Burkholderia ambifaria AMMD (ABC-type) were each cloned and introduced into an Escherichia coli mutant (MKH13) that is defective in betaine uptake, and so fails to catabolise DMSP even when a cloned dddD gene was present, due to the failure of the substrate to be imported. DMSP-dependent DMS production (Ddd+ phenotype) was restored by introducing any of these cloned transporters into MKH13 containing dddD. Other marine bacteria use a range of enzymes, called DddL, DddP, DddQ, DddW and DddY, to cleave DMSP, but the various ddd genes that encode them are usually unlinked to any that are predicted to encode betaine transporters. We identified one gene in Sulfitobacter sp. EE-36 and two in Roseovarius nubinhibens ISM, which, when cloned and introduced into E. coli MKH13, overcame its osmotic sensitivity when it was grown with DMSP or other exogenous betaines. These genes all encoded BCCT transporters, but were unlinked to any known genes involved in DMSP catabolism in these two strains of α-proteobacteria.


ABC transporter BCCT transporter ddd Genes DMSP Halomonas Marinomonas Roseovarius Sulfitobacter 



We are grateful to the Natural Environment Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom for funding. Lei Sun was supported by a Derek Bryan and Liao Hongying Scholarship. We thank Mark Kirkwood for providing unpublished data and Emily Fowler for useful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lei Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrew R. J. Curson
    • 1
  • Jonathan D. Todd
    • 1
  • Andrew W. B. Johnston
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Department of BiosciencesUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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