The concentrations of the volatile organic sulfur compounds methanethiol, dimethyl disulfide, and dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and the viable population capable of DMS utilization in laminated microbial ecosystems were evaluated. Significant levels of DMS and dimethyl disulfide (maximum concentrations of 220 and 24 nmol cm3 of sediment-1, respectively) could be detected only at the top 20 mm of the microbial mat, whereas methanethiol was found only at depth horizons from 20 to 50 mm (maximum concentration of 42 nmol cm3 of sediment-1). DMS concentrations in the surface layer doubled after cold hydrolysis of its precursor, dimethylsulfoniopropionate. Most-probable-number counts revealed 2.2 x 10(5) cells cm3 of sediment-1, in the 0- to 5-mm depth horizon, capable of growth on DMS as the sole source of energy. An obligately chemolithoautotrophic bacillus designated strain T5 was isolated from the top layer of the marine sediment. Continuous culture studies in which DMS was the growth-limiting substrate revealed a maximum specific growth rate of 0.10 h-1 and a saturation constant of 90 mumol liter-1 for aerobic growth on this substrate.
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