Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) lyase enzymatically cleaves DMSP, an algal metabolite, to produce acrylate, a proton, and dimethyl sulfide (DMS), the most abundant volatile sulfur compound emitted from oceans. The physiology of DMS production by DMSP lyase was studied in vivo in an Alcaligenes-like organism, strain M3A, a salt marsh bacterial isolate, and in a marine strain, Pseudomonas doudoroffii. Enzymes from both strains were induced at optimum rates by 1 mM DMSP and vigorous aeration. P. doudoroffii was very sensitive to continued aeration and lost activity rapidly; the enzyme was more stable when aeration ceased. In addition to DMSP, acrylate and several of its analogs acted as inducers of DMSP lyase in Alcaligenes sp. strain M3A but not in P. doudoroffii. Turnover of DMSP by P. doudoroffii was enhanced by 3.5% NaCl or seawater, whereas the Alcaligenes sp. strain M3A enzyme was not salt dependent and salt did not greatly affect its activity. The pH profile showed two peaks of DMSP lyase activity (6.5 and 8.8) for Alcaligenes sp. strain M3A and a single peak at pH 8 for P. doudoroffii. Enzyme activity in both organisms was inhibited by methyl-3-mercaptopropionate and homocysteine. Cyanide, azide and p-chloromercuribenzoate inhibited only the P. doudoroffii DMSP lyase. The apparent K(infm) values for DMSP for cell cultures of Alcaligenes sp. strain M3A and P. doudoroffii were ca. 2 mM and <20 (mu)M, respectively. The differences in the physiology of DMSP metabolism in these two bacterial isolates may enable them to exist in diverse ecological niches.