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Identification of novel 7-methyl and cyclopentanyl branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers in lake sediments

Ding, Su, Schwab, Valérie F., Ueberschaar, Nico, Roth, Vanessa-Nina, Lange, Markus, Xu, Yunping, Gleixner, Gerd, Pohnert, Georg
Organic geochemistry 2016 v.102 pp. 52-58
glycerol, high performance liquid chromatography, isomers, lakes, lipids, methylation, paleoecology, sediments, soil pH, temperature, uncertainty, Cameroon
Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) are bacterial membrane lipids that are widely used as valuable paleoenvironmental proxies. The recently discovered 6-methyl brGDGTs improved the accuracy of the proxies for temperature “methylation branched tetraethers (MBT)” and soil pH “cyclization branched tetraethers (CBT)”. However, the calibration uncertainties are still substantial for brGDGT-derived proxies (e.g., 5°C for MBT′5ME). Here we report a series of novel 7-methyl brGDGT isomers that co-eluted with the known 5- and 6-methyl brGDGTs in commonly applied normal phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Using an optimized HPLC gradient the novel 7-methyl brGDGTs could be structurally characterized and quantified. Their mean relative abundance was in the range of 6% of the total brGDGTs in Chinese and Cameroon lake sediments. The 7-methyl brGDGT IIa7 correlates with sediment pH (R2=0.44, root-mean-square error=0.26 pH unit), a result that motivates the re-analysis of brGDGTs in soils and sediments to further reassess brGDGT-based proxies and to determine the source of 7-methyl brGDGTs. In addition to the 7-methyl brGDGTs, we identified two novel pentamethylated brGDGTs based on the mass spectra of its ether-cleaved hydrocarbon products.