One of the most abundant organic sulphur molecules in the ocean, dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) has been implicated in numerous biochemical functions and ecological interactions, from osmotic and oxidative stress regulation within the cell, to the chemical attraction of bacteria, mammals and birds in the environment. Notwithstanding these varied and important discoveries, the primary role of DMSP in the cell remains elusive. In this study, we take a new approach to investigating the role of DMSP in cell physiology. Rather than utilising a known DMSP-producer, we instead exploit the propensity for the non-DMSP producing diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii to take up DMSP from its environment. We characterise the uptake and retention of the molecule under growth conditions and salinity stress with the aim to elucidate its utility as a model system for investigating the cellular function of DMSP. Thalassiosira weissflogii showed concentration-dependent uptake of DMSP and complete retention within the cell for at least 6 h. Saturation of intracellular DMSP occurred at > 87 mM, equivalent to some of the most prolific DMSP-producing species. Salinity shifts resulted in a reduction in DMSP uptake rate, but only at extremely low (17) or very high (45) salinities. These data demonstrate the potential for using T. weissflogii in physiological studies, providing a true (DMSP-free) control, as well as a DMSP-enriched version of the same strain. In this way, orthogonal experiments may be conducted with the aim to uncover the physiological purpose of DMSP in phytoplankton and potentially add key pieces to the enigmatic DMSP puzzle.
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Petrou, K., Nielsen, D.A. Uptake of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) by the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii: a model to investigate the cellular function of DMSP. Biogeochemistry 141, 265–271 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-018-0507-1
- Thalassiosira weissflogii