Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Dec 1;39(23):9009-15.

Molecular structure in soil humic substances: the new view.

Author information

Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley 94720-3114, USA.


A critical examination of published data obtained primarily from recent nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy, electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry, and pyrolysis studies reveals an evolving new view of the molecular structure of soil humic substances. According to the new view, humic substances are collections of diverse, relatively low molecular mass components forming dynamic associations stabilized by hydrophobic interactions and hydrogen bonds. These associations are capable of organizing into micellar structures in suitable aqueous environments. Humic components display contrasting molecular motional behavior and may be spatially segregated on a scale of nanometers. Within this new structural context, these components comprise any molecules intimately associated with a humic substance, such that they cannot be separated effectively by chemical or physical methods. Thus biomolecules strongly bound within humic fractions are by definition humic components, a conclusion that necessarily calls into question key biogeochemical pathways traditionally thought to be required for the formation of humic substances. Further research is needed to elucidate the intermolecular interactions that link humic components into supramolecular associations and to establish the pathways by which these associations emerge from the degradation of organic litter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center