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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-332
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-332
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 29 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 29 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Structural elucidation and environmental distributions of butanetriol and pentanetriol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (BDGTs and PDGTs)

Sarah Coffinet1, Travis B. Meador1,a, Lukas Mühlena1, Kevin W. Becker1,b, Jan Schröder1, Qing-Zeng Zhu1, Julius S. Lipp1, Verena B. Heuer1, Matthew P. Crump2, and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs1 Sarah Coffinet et al.
  • 1MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany
  • 2School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, UK
  • apresent address: Biology Centre CAS, SoWa-RI, České Budějovice, Czechia
  • bpresent address: GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel, Germany

Abstract. Butanetriol and pentanetriol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (BDGTs and PDGTs) are membrane lipids recently discovered in sedimentary environments and in the methanogenic archaeon Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis. They possess an unusual structure, which challenges fundamental assumptions in lipid biochemistry. Indeed, they bear a butanetriol or a pentanetriol backbone instead of a glycerol at one end of their core structure. In this study, we unambiguously located the additional methyl group of the BDGT compound on the C3 carbon of the lipid backbone via high-field two-dimensional NMR experiments. We further systematically explored the abundance, distribution and isotopic composition of BDGTs and PDGTs as both intact polar and core lipid forms in marine sediments collected in contrasting environments of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. In addition, relatively 13C-depleted BDGTs from the Rhone delta and from the Black Sea are in agreement with a probable methanogenic source for these lipids. In line with this interpretation, high proportions of intact polar BDGTs and PDGTs were detected in the deeper methane-laden sedimentary layers. However, relatively 13C enriched BDGTs and contrasting headgroup distribution patterns of BDGTs and PDGTs in sediments of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea imply that additional archaeal groups also produce these unique lipids.

Sarah Coffinet et al.
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Sarah Coffinet et al.
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Latest update: 19 Sep 2019
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Short summary
This study deals with two membrane lipids called BDGTs and PDGTs. Membrane lipids are molecules forming the cell envelope of all organisms. Different organisms produce different lipids thus they can be used to detect the presence of specific organisms in the environment. We analyzed the structure of these new lipids and looked for potential producers. We found that they are likely made by microbes emitting methane below the sediment surface and could be used to track these specific microbes.
This study deals with two membrane lipids called BDGTs and PDGTs. Membrane lipids are molecules...
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