Ultra-high-resolution paleoenvironmental records via direct laser-based analysis of lipid biomarkers in sediment core samples


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pier.buttigieg [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Marine microorganisms adapt to their habitat by structural modification of their membrane lipids. This concept is the basis of numerous molecular proxies used for paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Archaeal tetraether lipids from ubiquitous marine planktonic archaea are particularly abundant, well preserved in the sedimentary record and used in several molecular proxies. We here introduce the direct, extraction-free analysis of these compounds in intact sediment core sections using laser desorption ionization (LDI) coupled to Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS). LDI FTICR-MS can detect the target lipids in single submillimeter-sized spots on sediment sections, equivalent to a sample mass in the nanogram range, and could thus pave the way for biomarker-based reconstruction of past environments and ecosystems at subannual to decadal resolution. We demonstrate that ratios of selected archaeal tetraethers acquired by LDI FTICR-MS are highly correlated with values obtained by conventional liquid chromatography/MS protocols. The ratio of the major archaeal lipids, caldarchaeol and crenarchaeol, analyzed in a 6.2-cm intact section of Mediterranean sapropel S1 at 250-µm resolution (∼4-y temporal resolution), provides an unprecedented view of the fine-scale patchiness of sedimentary biomarker distributions and the processes involved in proxy signal formation. Temporal variations of this lipid ratio indicate a strong influence of the ∼200-y de Vries solar cycle on reconstructed sea surface temperatures with possible amplitudes of several degrees, and suggest signal amplification by a complex interplay of ecological and environmental factors. Laser-based biomarker analysis of geological samples has the potential to revolutionize molecular stratigraphic studies of paleoenvironments.



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Eprint ID
43655
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1405237111

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Wormer, L. , Elvert, M. , Fuchser, J. , Lipp, J. S. , Buttigieg, P. L. , Zabel, M. and Hinrichs, K. U. (2014): Ultra-high-resolution paleoenvironmental records via direct laser-based analysis of lipid biomarkers in sediment core samples , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (44), pp. 15669-15674 . doi: 10.1073/pnas.1405237111


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