Amino Acid Enantiomeric Ratios in Semi-Labile vs. Refractory Dissolved Organic Matter: Implications for a Microbial N Pump

Amy Lynn Bour1, Taylor Broek2, Elizabeth J Gier1 and Matthew D Mccarthy1, (1)University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (2)University of California Santa Cruz, Ocean Sciences Department, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
Microbes are key moderators in the cycling of marine dissolved organic matter (DOM), most of which remains unidentifiable at the molecular level. A major current question, however, is to what degree heterotrophic bacteria directly mediate C and N sequestration in the deep sea. Amino acids (AA) represent almost all organic N that can be identified at the molecular level, while D-AA enantiomers represent unique source-specific biomarkers for prokaryotes, known to be highly enriched in ocean DOM. If increasing bacterial-sourced material ultimately leads to millennial scale sequestration of refractory DOM (RDOM), then one would expect a clear correlation between bacterial biomarkers and DOM radiocarbon (Δ14C) ages, in particular in the deep sea. Here we directly test this idea for the first time, by measuring D-AA abundance and distribution in isolated Δ14C young vs. old DOM from the central north pacific gyre. We used a coupled ultrafiltration/solid phase extraction approach to isolate semi-labile vs. RDOM, based on known molecular weight and Δ14C age correlations. The Δ14C ages of isolated material ranged from 205-275 ybp for surface semi-labile DOM, to 6680-6740 ybp for deep ocean RDOM. We measured enantiomeric (D/L) AA ratios, as well as AA molar percentages to estimate traditional degradation parameters (DI and RI), in semi-labile vs. RDOM fractions from the surface to deep ocean at HOT, Station ALOHA. We interpret our results in terms of the hypothesis of a microbial N pump, examining the similarity of microbial source signatures (D/L distributions) and calculated organic N contributions from heterotrophic bacteria, in the context of the Δ14C age of each fraction. Finally, we also evaluate these data vs. common AA molar percentage based indices of degradation.