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Nature. 2002 Jul 18;418(6895):317-20.

An antioxidant function for DMSP and DMS in marine algae.

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Beaufort Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA.


The algal osmolyte dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and its enzymatic cleavage product dimethylsulphide (DMS) contribute significantly to the global sulphur cycle, yet their physiological functions are uncertain. Here we report results that, together with those in the literature, show that DMSP and its breakdown products (DMS, acrylate, dimethylsulphoxide, and methane sulphinic acid) readily scavenge hydroxyl radicals and other reactive oxygen species, and thus may serve as an antioxidant system, regulated in part by enzymatic cleavage of DMSP. In support of this hypothesis, we found that oxidative stressors, solar ultraviolet radiation, CO(2) limitation, Fe limitation, high Cu(2+) (ref. 9) and H(2)O(2) substantially increased cellular DMSP and/or its lysis to DMS in marine algal cultures. Our results indicate direct links between such stressors and the dynamics of DMSP and DMS in marine phytoplankton, which probably influence the production of DMS and its release to the atmosphere. As oxidation of DMS to sulphuric acid in the atmosphere provides a major source of sulphate aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei, oxidative stressors--including solar radiation and Fe limitation--may be involved in complex ocean atmosphere feedback loops that influence global climate and hydrological cycles.

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