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Major Bacterial Contribution to Marine Dissolved Organic Nitrogen

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Science  10 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5374, pp. 231-234
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5374.231

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Abstract

Next to N2 gas, the largest pool of reduced nitrogen in the ocean resides in the enormous reservoir of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON). The chemical identity of most of this material, and the mechanisms by which it is cycled, remain fundamental questions in contemporary oceanography. Amino acid enantiomeric ratios in the high molecular weight fraction of DON from surface and deep water in three ocean basins show substantial enrichment in d enantiomers of four amino acids. The magnitude and pattern of thesed/l enrichments indicate that peptidoglycan remnants derived from bacterial cell walls constitute a major source of DON throughout the sea. These observations suggest that structural properties of specific bacterial biopolymers, and the mechanisms for their accumulation, are among the central controls on long-term cycling of dissolved organic nitrogen in the sea.

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