Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and Related Compounds in Higher Plants

J Exp Bot. 2004 Aug;55(404):1919-25. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erh178. Epub 2004 Jun 4.


Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) is produced in high concentrations in many marine algae, but in higher plants only in a few salt marsh grasses of the genus Spartina, in sugar canes (Saccharum spp.), and in the Pacific strand plant Wollastonia biflora (L.) DC. The high concentrations found in higher plants (up to 250 micromol g(-1) dry weight) suggest an important role, but though many functions have been suggested (including methylating agent, detoxification of excess sulphur, salt tolerance, and herbivore deterrent), its actual functions remain unclear. The fact that the ability to produce DMSP in high concentrations is found in species that have no taxonomic or ecological relationship suggests that the compound evolved independently and serves different functions in different plants. This is supported by observations that DMSP in W. biflora behaves differently from that in Spartina species. While DMSP concentrations in W. biflora have been found to increase with increasing salinity, suggesting a role in osmotic control, such a relationship has not been found for DMSP in Spartina species. Recent observations on tissue culture showed that, while undifferentiated tissue of W. biflora produced DMSP, such material of Spartina alterniflora Loisel. did not. Ongoing studies with tissue culture of both species have opened up new avenues of research on DMSP in higher plants, ultimately to elucidate the functions of this enigmatic compound.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Models, Chemical
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Poaceae / chemistry
  • Saccharum / chemistry
  • Sulfonium Compounds / analysis*
  • Sulfonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Sulfonium Compounds / metabolism
  • Wedelia / chemistry


  • Sulfonium Compounds
  • dimethylpropiothetin