Carbon isotopic fractionation associated with lipid biosynthesis by a cyanobacterium: relevance for interpretation of biomarker records

TitleCarbon isotopic fractionation associated with lipid biosynthesis by a cyanobacterium: relevance for interpretation of biomarker records
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsSakata, S, Hayes, JM, McTaggart, AR, Evans, RA, Leckrone, KJ, Togasaki, RK
JournalGeochim Cosmochim Acta
Date Published1997
ISBN Number0016-7037 (Print)0016-7037 (Linking)
Keywords*Biomass, Acetic Acid/metabolism, Alkanes/*analysis/chemistry, Biomarkers/chemistry, carbon isotopes, Carbon/*chemistry, Chlorophyll/metabolism, Cyanobacteria/chemistry/*metabolism, Geologic Sediments/*chemistry, Lipids/*biosynthesis, NASA Discipline Exobiology, Non-NASA Center, Palmitic Acid/metabolism, Phytol/metabolism, Pigments, Biological/metabolism

For the cyanobacterium Synechocystis UTEX 2470, grown photoautotrophically to a logarithmic stage of growth, the total lipid extract is depleted in 13C by 4.8% relative to average biomass. Depletions observed for acetogenic (straight-chain) lipids range from 7.6 (hexadecanoic acid) to 9.9% (a C16 n-alkyl chain bound in a polar-lipid fraction), with a mass-weighted average of 9.1%. Polyisoprenoid lipids fall into two isotopic groups, with phytol, diplopterol, and diploptene depleted by 6.4-6.9% and bishomohopanol (produced from the extracts by the preparative degradation of bacteriohopanepolyol) depleted by 8.4%. Analysis of the pattern of depletions indicates that two carbon positions in each C5 biomonomer leading to polyisoprenoid products are probably depleted in 13C relative to average biomass. The depletion of bacteriohopanepolyol relative to other polyisoprenoids can be ascribed to changes that occur over the life of each cell: (1) the 13C content of carbon flowing to lipid biosynthesis decreases as the cell size increases and (2) a greater proportion of the bacteriohopanepolyol which, unlike other polyisoprenoids, is present mainly in the cytoplasm rather than in membranes and is synthesized when cells are larger. Chlorophyll a is depleted relative to average biomass by O.7%. Given the observed depletion of 13C in phytol, the heteroaromatic, chlorophyllide portion of chlorophyll must be enriched in 13C by 2.7%. This enrichment is large relative to that in chlorophyllides produced by eukaryotes and may be related to a parallel enrichment of 13C in cyanobacterial glutamic acid. As in many previous investigations of cyanobacterial lipids, long-chain n-alkanes (C22-C29) are found in the extracts. They are, however, enriched in 13C relative to biomass and have isotopic compositions suggesting that they are contaminants of petrochemical origin. Available results indicate that cyanobacterial lipids will be depleted relative to dissolved CO2 that has served as a carbon source by 22-30% and that a wider range of depletions will be characteristic of eukaryotic products. The absence of long-chain n-alkanes in cyanobacteria reduces the possibility that petroleum ever formed from pre-eukaryotic sedimentary debris.