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Jun 23, 2015
The ISME Journal
The 'bacterial switch' is a proposed regulatory point in the global sulfur cycle that routes dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) to two fundamentally different fates in seawater through genes encoding either the cleavage or demethylation pathway, and affects the flux of volatile sulfur from ocean surface waters to the atmosphere. Yet which ecological or physiological factors might control the bacterial switch remains a topic of considerable debate. Here we report the first field observations of dynamic changes in expression of DMSP pathway genes by a single marine bacterial species in its natural environment. Detection of taxon-specific gene expression in Roseobacter species HTCC2255 during a month-long deployment of an autonomous ocean sensor in Monterey Bay, CA captured in situ regulation of the first gene in each DMSP pathway (dddP and dmdA) that corresponded with shifts in the taxonomy of the phytoplankton community. Expression of the demethylation pathway was relatively greater during a high-DMSP-producing dinoflagellate bloom, and expression of the cleavage pathway was greater in the presence of a mixed diatom and dinoflagellate community [corrected].These field data fit the prevailing hypothesis for bacterial DMSP gene regulation based on bacterial sulfur demand, but also suggest a modification involving oxidative stress response, evidenced as upregulation of catalase via katG, when DMSP is demethylated.

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