Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
Analysis of soil lipids may contribute to an improved understanding of atmosphere to soil carbon fluxes, soil organic matter source differentiation and pollutant accumulation. Soil lipids, mostly originating from plants and microorganisms, have traditionally been analysed by non-automated extraction and separation methods, which produce several lipid fractions, operationally defined by polarity. Here we present a combination of fast, automated and reproducible techniques, adopted from organic geochemical studies, for preparative separation of individual soil lipid fractions with increasing polarity. These techniques involve commercially available instruments, including accelerated solvent extraction and a two-step automated medium-pressure liquid chromatography procedure. The method yields eight lipid fractions consisting of five fractions fully amenable to gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) (aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, alcohols, carboxylic acids), and three fractions of highly polar or high molecular weight compounds (bases, very long-chain wax esters (C40+), high polarity compounds) that were not measurable with GC/MS under standard conditions. We tested the method on five agricultural soils. Results show that (i) mass recoveries for the individual fractions are reproducible, (ii) within individual fractions compound distribution patterns are reproducible, as demonstrated for alkanes and carboxylic acids, and (iii) individual fractions represent distinct and clean compound classes, free of interfering substances detectable by GC/MS. Thus, automated separation can be a fast, effective and reproducible procedure for fractionation of complex mixtures of soil lipids into clean compound classes, directly suitable for a variety of molecular (e.g. GC/MS) and isotopic characterizations (e.g. gas chromatography coupled with isotope ratio monitoring mass spectrometry or accelerator mass spectrometry).
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