FCE LTER Journal Articles


Composition of a protein-like fluorophore of dissolved organic matter in coastal wetland and estuarine ecosystems


This study demonstrates the compositional heterogeneity of a protein-like fluorescence emission signal (T-peak; excitation/emission maximum at 280/325 nm) of dissolved organic matter (DOM) samples collected from subtropical river and estuarine environments. Natural water samples were collected from the Florida Coastal Everglades ecosystem. The samples were ultrafiltered and excitation–emission fluorescence matrices were obtained. The T-peak intensity correlated positively with N concentration of the ultrafiltered DOM solution (UDON), although, the low correlation coefficient (r2=0.140, p<0.05) suggested the coexistence of proteins with other classes of compounds in the T-peak. As such, the T-peak was unbundled on size exclusion chromatography. The elution curves showed that the T-peak was composed of two compounds with distinct molecular weights (MW) with nominal MWs of about >5×104 (T1) and ∼7.6×103 (T2) and with varying relative abundance among samples. The T1-peak intensity correlated strongly with [UDON] (r2=0.516, p<0.001), while T2-peak did not, which suggested that the T-peak is composed of a mixture of compounds with different chemical structures and ecological roles, namely proteinaceous materials and presumably phenolic moieties in humic-like substances. Natural source of the latter may include polyphenols leached from senescent plant materials, which are important precursors of humic substances. This idea is supported by the fact that polyphenols, such as gallic acid, an important constituent of hydrolysable tannins, and condensed tannins extracted from red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) leaves exhibited the fluorescence peak in the close vicinity of the T-peak (260/346 and 275/313 nm, respectively). Based on this study the application of the T-peak as a proxy for [DON] in natural waters may have limitations in coastal zones with significant terrestrial DOM input.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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