Amino acid and amino sugar yields and compositions as indicators of dissolved organic matter diagenesis Academic Article uri icon


  • Microbial decomposition experiments were used to characterize changes in the amino acid and amino sugar yields and compositions of natural marine substrates during early diagenesis in seawater. On average, 63% of added carbon and 68% of added nitrogen were removed within the first 30 days of decomposition. In all cases, amino acid utilization accounted for a substantial fraction of the removed C and N. Carbon-normalized amino acid yields decreased to less than 50% of their starting values and most of this change occurred within the first 10 days of decomposition. Increases in the concentrations of amino sugars and decreases in the GlcN:GalN ratio in particulate organic matter (POM) illustrated the significance of microbial production during the decomposition of added substrates. Changes in the mol % composition of amino acids during early diagenesis were substantial but highly variable with substrate. Previous survey data collected from the same region were used in conjunction with the experimental data to investigate the utility of several established amino acid-based indices of organic matter diagenesis. This comparison showed that a combination of these degradation indexes is most effective for describing the diagenetic state of dissolved organic matter (DOM). Carbon-normalized amino acid yields were found to be the most effective indicator for early diagenesis. Relative abundances of amino acids were effective indicators of intermediate stages of diagenesis and the mol % composition of the non-protein amino acid -Aba (-aminobutyric acid) was an effective indicator of advanced DOM diagenesis. 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Davis, J., Kaiser, K., & Benner, R.

citation count

  • 140

complete list of authors

  • Davis, Jenny||Kaiser, Karl||Benner, Ronald

publication date

  • January 2009