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Distribution of Intact and Core Membrane Lipids of Archaeal Glycerol Dialkyl Glycerol Tetraethers among Size-Fractionated Particulate Organic Matter in Hood Canal, Puget Sound

Ingalls, Anitra E., Huguet, Carme, Truxal, Laura T.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2012 v.78 no.5 pp. 1480-1490
Archaea, biomass, cell death, filters, glycerol, hydrolysis, lipids, particle size, particulates, Washington
There is great interest in the membrane lipids of archaea (glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers [GDGTs]) as tracers of archaeal biomass because of their utility as paleoproxies and because of the biogeochemical importance of archaea. While core GDGTs (formed by hydrolysis of polar head groups of intact GDGTs after cell death) are appropriate for paleostudies, they have also been used to trace archaeal populations. Also, despite the small size (0.2 by 0.7 μm) of cultivated marine archaea, 0.7-μm glass-fiber filters (GFFs) are typically used to collect GDGTs from natural waters. We quantified both core and intact GDGTs in free-living (0.2- to 0.7-μm), suspended (0.7- to 60-μm), and aggregate (>60-μm) particle size fractions in Puget Sound (Washington State). On average, the free-living fraction contained 36% of total GDGTs, 90% of which were intact. The intermediate-size fraction contained 62% of GDGTs, and 29% of these were intact. The aggregate fraction contained 2% of the total GDGT pool, and 29% of these were intact. Our results demonstrate that intact GDGTs are largely in the free-living fraction. Because only intact GDGTs are present in living cells, protocols that target this size fraction and analyze the intact GDGT pool are necessary to track living populations in marine waters. Core GDGT enrichment in larger-size fractions indicates that archaeal biomass may quickly become attached or entrained in particles once the archaea are dead or dying. While the concentrations of the two pools were generally not correlated, the similar sizes of the core and intact GDGT pools suggest that core GDGTs are removed from the water column on timescales similar to those of cell replication, on timescales of days to weeks.