, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 53–69 | Cite as

Dimethylated sulfur production in batch cultures of Southern Ocean phytoplankton

  • Cristin E. Sheehan
  • Katherina PetrouEmail author


Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is a ubiquitous organic sulfur compound that underpins sulfur cycling in the marine environment and is the precursor to the climatically active gas dimethylsulfide (DMS). Modelling studies have identified the Southern Ocean as a DMS hot spot during summer, yet except for the bloom forming haptophyte Phaeocystis, little is known about sulfur production by other important members of the marine microbial community. Here, we measured DMSP concentrations and DMSP lyase activity (DLA), with corresponding carbon, nitrogen and Chl a content, in 15 species of Antarctic phototrophic phytoplankton (14 microalgae species and one cyanobacterium) and one phagotrophic flagellate. We found that 11 of the 16 species were able to produce DMSP and eight possess DLA. DMSP content ranged from 0.06 to 73 fmol cell−1 and estimated DMSP production rates ranged from 0.008 to 12.42 fmol cell−1 day−1. As expected, Phaeocystis was amongst the highest producers, however, contrary to expectation DMSP concentrations were high in several pennate diatom species, with intracellular concentrations between 1.85 and 46.6 mM. Here we present the first evidence that the cyanobacterium Synechococcus may be a DMSP producer, with the potential to contribute significantly to the DMSP pool. This study has provided the first analysis of DMSP production and DLA in a suite of phototrophic and phagotrophic species isolated from Antarctica, revealing the variability in DMSP concentrations across multiple strains and within genera and delivered new evidence for potential DLA in diatoms.


Southern Ocean Phytoplankton Dimethylsulfoniopropionate Dimethylsulfide Biogeochemistry 



The authors would like to thank Drs Andrew T Davidson and Stacy Deppeler for the Prydz Bay phytoplankton isolates. CES was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), and research funding was provided by the Climate Change Cluster (C3) and the School of Life Science, University of Technology Sydney.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life ScienceUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Climate Change ClusterUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

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