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Organic Geochemistry
Vol. 83-84, 2015, Pages: 101–108

Distribution of glycerol ether lipids in halophilic, methanogenic and hyperthermophilic archaea

Thorsten Bauersachsa, Katrin Weidenbach, Ruth A. Schmitz, Lorenz Schwark

Christian-Albrechts-University, Institute of Geosciences, Department of Organic Geochemistry, Ludewig-Meyn-Straße 10, 24118 Kiel, Germany.


Four representatives of methanogenic Euryarchaeota (Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, Methanobrevibacter smithii and Methanosaeta thermophila), the hyperthermophilic euryarchaeon Thermococcus kodakarensis and the halophilic euryarchaeon Haloferax volcanii were studied for their glycerol ether lipid composition. The predominant core membrane lipid in all of them was archaeol, which was accompanied by variable quantities of sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol in the methanogens M. mazei (Methanosarcinales) and M. stadtmanae (Methanobacteriales). All methanogenic and hyperthermophilic Euryarchaeota also contained comparatively high abundances of the glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether without a cyclopentane moiety (GDGT-0). The methanoarchaeon M. stadtmanae, in addition to GDGT-0, contained GDGT core lipid structures with 1–4 cyclopentane moieties (GDGTs 1–4). We also found minor amounts of a glycerol trialkyl glycerol tetraether (GTGT) and a glycerol dialkanol diether (GDD), both of which did not contain cyclopentane moieties, as well as methylated and dimethylated GDGT-0 in all the archaea with the exception of H. volcanii. Like its GDGT distribution, M. stadtmanae showed an extended range of GDD structures with up to two cyclopentane ring systems. Our results thus indicate that both methanogenic and hyperthermophilic Euryarchaeota may represent source organisms of GTGT-0, GDDs and methylated-GDGTs in natural environments. All the latter components have recently been reported to be ubiquitously distributed in marine sediments but their biological origin is largely unknown. Moreover, a suite of unsaturated GDGTs without a cyclopentane moiety and up to four double bonds in the hyperthermophile T. kodakarensis was tentatively assigned.

Keywords: Membrane lipids; Archaeol; GDGT; GDD; GTGT; Halobacteriales; Methanobacteriales; Methanosarcinales; Thermococcales.

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