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Science. 2001 May 4;292(5518):917-20.

Production of refractory dissolved organic matter by bacteria.

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  • 1Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan.


Most of the oceanic reservoir of dissolved organic matter (DOM) is of marine origin and is resistant to microbial oxidation, but little is known about the mechanisms of its formation. In a laboratory study, natural assemblages of marine bacteria rapidly (in <48 hours) utilized labile compounds (glucose, glutamate) and produced refractory DOM that persisted for more than a year. Only 10 to 15% of the bacterially derived DOM was identified as hydrolyzable amino acids and sugars, a feature consistent with marine DOM. These results suggest that microbial processes alter the molecular structure of DOM, making it resistant to further degradation and thereby preserving fixed carbon in the ocean.

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