Microbially-mediated fluorescent organic matter transformations in the deep ocean: Do the chemical precursors matter?

Fran L. Aparicio, Mar Nieto-Cid, Encarna Borrull, Estela Romero, Colin Stedmon, Maria M. Sala, Josep M. Gasol, Aida F. Ríos, Cèlia Marrasé

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The refractory nature of marine dissolved organic matter (DOM) increases while it travels from surface waters to the deep ocean. This resistant fraction is in part composed of fluorescent humic-like material, which is relatively difficult to metabolize by deep water prokaryotes, and it can also be generated by microbial activity. It has been recently argued that microbial production of new fluorescent DOM (FDOM) requires the presence of humic precursors in the surrounding environment. In order to experimentally test how the chemical quality of the available organic compounds influences the production of new FDOM, three experiments were performed with bathypelagic Atlantic waters. Microbial communities were incubated in three treatments which differed in the quality of the organic compounds added: i) glucose and acetate; ii) glucose, acetate, essential amino acids and humic acids; and iii) humic acids alone. The response of the prokaryotes and the production of FDOM were simultaneously monitored. Prokaryotic abundance was highest in treatments where labile compounds were added. The rate of humic-like fluorescence production scaled to prokaryotic abundance varied depending on the quality of the additions. The precursor compounds affected the generation of new humic-like FDOM, and the cell-specific production of this material was higher in the incubations amended with humic precursors. Furthermore, we observed that the protein-like fluorescence decreased only when fresh amino acids were added. These findings contribute to the understanding of FDOM variability in deep waters and provide valuable information for studies where fluorescent compounds are used in order to track water masses and/or microbial processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • DOC
  • Organic Matter
  • Deep Sea
  • Precursors
  • EEMs


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