Bacterial Wax Esters in Recent Fluvial Sediments

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We investigated the molecular inventory of River Danube sediments and identified wax esters with 28-36 carbons, with C30, C31 and C32 homologs the most abundant. They consist of various combinations of n-, iso- and anteiso-aliphatic acid and alcohol moieties, with different isomer distributions for the esters with odd and even carbon numbers. The short chain length (C28-C36), high proportion of methyl moieties and presence of monounsaturated esters together suggest a bacterial origin for the wax esters. The concentration in surface sediments varied from 0 to 741μg/kg, being significantly enriched at locations with high nutrient concentration and high primary productivity. Cluster analysis of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) band patterns revealed different bacterial communities in surface sediments from the stream and surface sediments from the reservoir. The concentration in a 70cm core of rapidly deposited sediments decreased significantly with depth, following first order kinetics, suggesting a loss of the esters within ca. 3years following burial and hence a low probability for preservation in the geological record. Wax esters in rivers have rarely been investigated; our results suggest that they represent a bacterial response to enhanced primary production, triggered by higher nutrient supply.



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