Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance mass spectra (FT-ICR-MS) of natural organic matter are complex and consist of several thousands of peaks. The corresponding mass to charge ratios (m/z) and signal intensities result from analytes and noise. The most commonly applied way of distinguishing between analyte and noise is a fixed signal-to-noise ratio below which a detected peak is considered noise. However, this procedure is problematic and can yield ambiguous results. For example, random noise peaks can occur slightly above the signal-to-noise threshold (false positives), while peaks of low abundance analytes may occasionally fall below the fixed threshold (false negatives). Thus, cumulative results from repeated measurements of the same sample contain more peaks than a single measurement. False positive and false negative signals are difficult to distinguish, which affects the reproducibility between replicates of a sample. To target this issue, we tested the feasibility of a method detection limit (MDL) for the analysis of natural organic matter to identify peaks that can reliably be distinguished from noise by estimating the uncertainty of the noise. We performed 556 replicate analyses of a dissolved organic matter sample from the deep North Pacific on a 15 T FT-ICR-MS; each of these replicate runs consisted of 500 cumulated broadband scans. To unambiguously identify analyte peaks in the mass spectra, the sample was also run at time-consuming high-sensitivity settings. The resulting data set was used to establish and thoroughly test a MDL. The new method is easy to establish with software help, does only require the additional analysis of replicate blanks (low time increase), and can implement all steps of sample preparation. Especially when analysis time does not allow for replicate runs, major merits of the MDL are reliable removal of false positive (noise) peaks and better reproducibility, while the risk of losing analytes with low signal intensities (false negative) is comparatively low. When replicate analyses are feasible, the removal of all singly detected peaks is further recommended, as these have the highest probability of being noise peaks. We suggest that the here proposed detection limit should become routine in FT-ICR-MS data processing.
Despite the small continental coverage of lakes, they are hotspots of carbon cycling, largely due to the processing of terrestrially derived dissolved organic matter (DOM). As DOM is an amalgam of heterogeneous compounds comprising gradients of microbial and physicochemical reactivity, the factors influencing DOM processing at the molecular level and the resulting patterns in DOM composition are not well understood. Here we show, using ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry to unambiguously identify 4,032 molecular formulae in 120 lakes across Sweden, that the molecular composition of DOM is shaped by precipitation, water residence time and temperature. Terrestrially derived DOM is selectively lost as residence time increases, with warmer temperatures enhancing the production of nitrogen-containing compounds. Using biodiversity concepts, we show that the molecular diversity of DOM, or chemodiversity, increases with DOM and nutrient concentrations. The observed molecular-level patterns indicate that terrestrially derived DOM will become more prevalent in lakes as climate gets wetter.
Bacterial diversity, community assembly, and the composition of the dissolved organic matter (DOM) were studied in three temporary subsurface karst pools with different flooding regimes. We tested the hypothesis that microorganisms introduced to the pools during floods faced environmental filtering toward a 'typical' karst water community, and we investigated whether DOM composition was related to floodings and the residence time of water in stagnant pools. As predicted, longer water residence consistently led to a decline of bacterial diversity. The microbial assemblages in the influx water harbored more 'exotic' lineages with large distances to known genotypes, yet these initial communities already appeared to be shaped by selective processes. ?-Proteobacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) closely related to microbes from subsurface or surface aquatic environments were mainly responsible for the clustering of samples according to water residence time in the pools. By contrast, several Cytophagaceae and Flavobacteriaceae OTUs were related to different floodings, which were also the main determinants of DOM composition. A subset of compounds distinguishable by molecular mass and O/C content were characteristic for individual floods. Moreover, there was a transformation of DOM in stagnant pools toward smaller and more aromatic compounds, potentially also reflecting microbial utilization.
Oceanic dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an assemblage of reduced carbon compounds, which results from biotic and abiotic processes. The biotic processes consist in either release or uptake of specific molecules by marine organisms. Heterotrophic bacteria have been mostly considered to influence the DOM composition by preferential uptake of certain compounds. However, they also secrete a variety of molecules depending on physiological state, environmental and growth conditions, but so far the full set of compounds secreted by these bacteria has never been investigated. In this study, we analyzed the exo-metabolome, metabolites secreted into the environment, of the heterotrophic marine bacterium Pseudovibrio sp. FO-BEG1 via ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry, comparing phosphate limited with phosphate surplus growth conditions. Bacteria belonging to the Pseudovibrio genus have been isolated worldwide, mainly from marine invertebrates and were described as metabolically versatile Alphaproteobacteria. We show that the exo-metabolome is unexpectedly large and diverse, consisting of hundreds of compounds that differ by their molecular formulae. It is characterized by a dynamic recycling of molecules, and it is drastically affected by the physiological state of the strain. Moreover, we show that phosphate limitation greatly influences both the amount and the composition of the secreted molecules. By assigning the detected masses to general chemical categories, we observed that under phosphate surplus conditions the secreted molecules were mainly peptides and highly unsaturated compounds. In contrast, under phosphate limitation the composition of the exo-metabolome changed during bacterial growth, showing an increase in highly unsaturated, phenolic, and polyphenolic compounds. Finally, we annotated the detected masses using multiple metabolite databases. These analyses suggested the presence of several masses analogue to masses of known bioactive compounds. However, the annotation was successful only for a minor part of the detected molecules, underlining the current gap in knowledge concerning the biosynthetic ability of marine heterotrophic bacteria.
The biodegradability of terrigenous dissolved organic matter (tDOM) exported to the sea has a major impact on the global carbon cycle, but our understanding of tDOM bioavailability is fragmentary. In this study, the effects of preparative tDOM isolation on microbial decomposition were investigated in incubation experiments consisting of mesocosms containing mesohaline water from the Baltic Sea. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) consumption, molecular DOM composition, bacterial activities, and shifts in bacterial community structure were compared between mesocosms supplemented with riverine tDOM, either as filtered, particle-free river water or as a concentrate obtained by lyophilization/tangential ultrafiltration, and those containing only Baltic Sea water or river water. As shown using ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry (15 Tesla Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry, FT-ICR-MS) covering approximately 4600 different DOM compounds, the three DOM preparation protocols resulted in distinct patterns of molecular DOM composition. However, despite DOC losses of 4-16% and considerable bacterial production, there was no significant change in DOM composition during the 28-day experiment. Moreover, tDOM addition affected neither DOC degradation nor bacterial dynamics significantly, regardless of the tDOM preparation. This result suggested that the introduced tDOM was largely not bioavailable, at least on the temporal scale of our experiment, and that the observed bacterial activity and DOC decomposition mainly reflected the degradation of unknown, labile, colloidal and low-molecular weight DOM, both of which escape the analytical window of FT-ICR-MS. In contrast to the different tDOM preparations, the initial bacterial inoculum and batch culture conditions determined bacterial community succession and superseded the effects of tDOM addition. The uncoupling of tDOM and bacterial dynamics suggests that mesohaline bacterial communities cannot efficiently utilize tDOM and that in subarctic estuaries other factors are responsible for the removal of imported tDOM.
Reactive iron and organic carbon are intimately associated in soils and sediments. However, to date, the organic compounds involved are uncharacterized on the molecular level. At redox interfaces in peatlands, where the biogeochemical cycles of iron and dissolved organic matter (DOM) are coupled, this issue can readily be studied. We found that precipitation of iron hydroxides at the oxic surface layer of two rewetted fens removed a large fraction of DOM via coagulation. On aeration of anoxic fen pore waters, >90% of dissolved iron and 27 ± 7% (mean ± SD) of dissolved organic carbon were rapidly (within 24 h) removed. Using ultra-high-resolution MS, we show that vascular plant-derived aromatic and pyrogenic compounds were preferentially retained, whereas the majority of carboxyl-rich aliphatic acids remained in solution. We propose that redox interfaces, which are ubiquitous in marine and terrestrial settings, are selective yet intermediate barriers that limit the flux of land-derived DOM to oceanic waters.
Global biomass burning generates 40 million to 250 million tons of charcoal every year, part of which is preserved for millennia in soils and sediments. We have quantified dissolution products of charcoal in a wide range of rivers worldwide and show that globally, a major portion of the annual charcoal production is lost from soils via dissolution and subsequent transport to the ocean. The global flux of soluble charcoal accounts to 26.5 ± 1.8 million tons per year, which is ~10% of the global riverine flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We suggest that the mobilization of charcoal and DOC out of soils is mechanistically coupled. This study closes a major gap in the global charcoal budget and provides critical information in the context of geoengineering.
Storm clouds frequently form in the summer period in temperate climate zones. Studies on these inaccessible and short-lived atmospheric habitats have been scarce. We report here on the first comprehensive biogeochemical investigation of a storm cloud using hailstones as a natural stochastic sampling tool. A detailed molecular analysis of the dissolved organic matter in individual hailstones via ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry revealed the molecular formulae of almost 3000 different compounds. Only a small fraction of these compounds were rapidly biodegradable carbohydrates and lipids, suitable for microbial consumption during the lifetime of cloud droplets. However, as the cloud environment was characterized by a low bacterial density (Me?=?1973 cells/ml) as well as high concentrations of both dissolved organic carbon (Me?=?179 µM) and total dissolved nitrogen (Me?=?30 µM), already trace amounts of easily degradable organic compounds suffice to support bacterial growth. The molecular fingerprints revealed a mainly soil origin of dissolved organic matter and a minor contribution of plant-surface compounds. In contrast, both the total and the cultivable bacterial community were skewed by bacterial groups (?-Proteobacteria, Sphingobacteriales and Methylobacterium) that indicated the dominance of plant-surface bacteria. The enrichment of plant-associated bacterial groups points at a selection process of microbial genera in the course of cloud formation, which could affect the long-distance transport and spatial distribution of bacteria on Earth. Based on our results we hypothesize that plant-associated bacteria were more likely than soil bacteria (i) to survive the airborne state due to adaptations to life in the phyllosphere, which in many respects matches the demands encountered in the atmosphere and (ii) to grow on the suitable fraction of dissolved organic matter in clouds due to their ecological strategy. We conclude that storm clouds are among the most extreme habitats on Earth, where microbial life exists.
Large organic food falls to the deep sea--such as whale carcasses and wood logs--are known to serve as stepping stones for the dispersal of highly adapted chemosynthetic organisms inhabiting hot vents and cold seeps. Here we investigated the biogeochemical and microbiological processes leading to the development of sulfidic niches by deploying wood colonization experiments at a depth of 1690 m in the Eastern Mediterranean for one year. Wood-boring bivalves of the genus Xylophaga played a key role in the degradation of the wood logs, facilitating the development of anoxic zones and anaerobic microbial processes such as sulfate reduction. Fauna and bacteria associated with the wood included types reported from other deep-sea habitats including chemosynthetic ecosystems, confirming the potential role of large organic food falls as biodiversity hot spots and stepping stones for vent and seep communities. Specific bacterial communities developed on and around the wood falls within one year and were distinct from freshly submerged wood and background sediments. These included sulfate-reducing and cellulolytic bacterial taxa, which are likely to play an important role in the utilization of wood by chemosynthetic life and other deep-sea animals.
Oceanic subtropical gyres are considered biological deserts because of the extremely low availability of nutrients and thus minimum productivities. The major source of nutrient nitrogen in these ecosystems is N(2)-fixation. The South Pacific Gyre (SPG) is the largest ocean gyre in the world, but measurements of N(2)-fixation therein, or identification of microorganisms involved, are scarce. In the 2006/2007 austral summer, we investigated nitrogen and carbon assimilation at 11 stations throughout the SPG. In the ultra-oligotrophic waters of the SPG, the chlorophyll maxima reached as deep as 200 m. Surface primary production seemed limited by nitrogen, as dissolved inorganic carbon uptake was stimulated upon additions of (15)N-labeled ammonium and leucine in our incubation experiments. N(2)-fixation was detectable throughout the upper 200 m at most stations, with rates ranging from 0.001 to 0.19 nM N h(-1). N(2)-fixation in the SPG may account for the production of 8-20% of global oceanic new nitrogen. Interestingly, comparable (15)N(2)-fixation rates were measured under light and dark conditions. Meanwhile, phylogenetic analyses for the functional gene biomarker nifH and its transcripts could not detect any common photoautotrophic diazotrophs, such as, Trichodesmium, but a prevalence of ?-proteobacteria and the unicellular photoheterotrophic Group A cyanobacteria. The dominance of these likely heterotrophic diazotrophs was further verified by quantitative PCR. Hence, our combined results show that the ultra-oligotrophic SPG harbors a hitherto unknown heterotrophic diazotrophic community, clearly distinct from other oceanic gyres previously visited.
Globally, soil organic matter (SOM) contains more than three times as much carbon as either the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. Yet it remains largely unknown why some SOM persists for millennia whereas other SOM decomposes readily--and this limits our ability to predict how soils will respond to climate change. Recent analytical and experimental advances have demonstrated that molecular structure alone does not control SOM stability: in fact, environmental and biological controls predominate. Here we propose ways to include this understanding in a new generation of experiments and soil carbon models, thereby improving predictions of the SOM response to global warming.
We compare the ultrahigh resolution 9.4 T Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectra of marine dissolved organic matter (DOM) isolated from two sites in the Weddell Sea (Antarctica) obtained by complementary electrospray ionization (ESI) and atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI). Ions produced by APPI extend to higher carbon unsaturation than those produced by ESI, indicated by higher double-bond equivalents (rings plus double bonds) minus oxygen (DBE-O) values, whereas ESI-generated ions are more oxygenated. Moreover, many sulfur-containing compounds were efficiently ionized by ESI but not detected by APPI. Because the mass spectra obtained by ESI and APPI are significantly different, both are necessary to obtain a more complete description of the molecular composition of marine DOM.
Due to its extreme salinity and high Mg concentration the Dead Sea is characterized by a very low density of cells most of which are Archaea. We discovered several underwater fresh to brackish water springs in the Dead Sea harboring dense microbial communities. We provide the first characterization of these communities, discuss their possible origin, hydrochemical environment, energetic resources and the putative biogeochemical pathways they are mediating. Pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and community fingerprinting methods showed that the spring community originates from the Dead Sea sediments and not from the aquifer. Furthermore, it suggested that there is a dense Archaeal community in the shoreline pore water of the lake. Sequences of bacterial sulfate reducers, nitrifiers iron oxidizers and iron reducers were identified as well. Analysis of white and green biofilms suggested that sulfide oxidation through chemolitotrophy and phototrophy is highly significant. Hyperspectral analysis showed a tight association between abundant green sulfur bacteria and cyanobacteria in the green biofilms. Together, our findings show that the Dead Sea floor harbors diverse microbial communities, part of which is not known from other hypersaline environments. Analysis of the waters chemistry shows evidence of microbial activity along the path and suggests that the springs supply nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter to the microbial communities in the Dead Sea. The underwater springs are a newly recognized water source for the Dead Sea. Their input of microorganisms and nutrients needs to be considered in the assessment of possible impact of dilution events of the lake surface waters, such as those that will occur in the future due to the intended establishment of the Red Sea-Dead Sea water conduit.
Coagulation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by hydrolyzing metals is an important environmental process with particular relevance, e.g., for the cycling of organic matter in metal-rich aquatic systems or the flocculation of organic matter in wastewater treatment plants. Often, a nonremovable fraction of DOM remains in solution even at low DOM/metal ratios. Because coagulation by metals results from interactions with functional groups, we hypothesize that noncoagulating fractions have a distinct molecular composition. To test the hypothesis, we analyzed peat-derived dissolved organic matter remaining in solution after mixing with salts of Ca, Al, and Fe using 15 T Electrospray Ionization Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (ESI-FT-ICR-MS). Addition of metals resulted in a net removal of DOM. Also a reduction of molecular diversity was observed, as the number of peaks from the ESI-FT-ICR-MS spectra decreased. At DOM/metal ratios of ?9 Ca did not show any preference for distinct molecular fractions, while Fe and Al removed preferentially the most oxidized compounds (O/C ratio >0.4) of the peat leachate. Lowering DOM/metal ratios to ?1 resulted in further removal of less oxidized as well as more aromatic compounds ("black carbon"). Molecular composition in the residual solution after coagulation was more saturated, less polar, and less oxidized compared to the original peat leachate and exhibited a surprising similarity with DOM of marine origin. By identifying more than 9200 molecular formulas we can show that structural properties (saturation and aromaticity) and oxygen content of individual DOM molecules play an important role in coagulation with metals. We conclude that polyvalent cations not only alter the net mobility but also the very molecular composition of DOM in aquatic environments.
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