Identification of dimethylamine monooxygenase in marine bacteria reveals a metabolic bottleneck in the methylated amine degradation pathway

ISME J. 2017 Jul;11(7):1592-1601. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2017.31. Epub 2017 Mar 17.


Methylated amines (MAs) are ubiquitous in the marine environment and their subsequent flux into the atmosphere can result in the formation of aerosols and ultimately cloud condensation nuclei. Therefore, these compounds have a potentially important role in climate regulation. Using Ruegeria pomeroyi as a model, we identified the genes encoding dimethylamine (DMA) monooxygenase (dmmABC) and demonstrate that this enzyme degrades DMA to monomethylamine (MMA). Although only dmmABC are required for enzyme activity in recombinant Escherichia coli, we found that an additional gene, dmmD, was required for the growth of R. pomeroyi on MAs. The dmmDABC genes are absent from the genomes of multiple marine bacteria, including all representatives of the cosmopolitan SAR11 clade. Consequently, the abundance of dmmDABC in marine metagenomes was substantially lower than the genes required for other metabolic steps of the MA degradation pathway. Thus, there is a genetic and potential metabolic bottleneck in the marine MA degradation pathway. Our data provide an explanation for the observation that DMA-derived secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) are among the most abundant SOAs detected in fine marine particles over the North and Tropical Atlantic Ocean.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology
  • Oxygenases / metabolism*
  • Rhodobacteraceae / genetics
  • Rhodobacteraceae / metabolism*
  • Seawater / microbiology


  • Oxygenases
  • secondary amine monooxygenase