Protein Modification and Degradation in Marine Systems

Protein derived largely from phytoplankton represents a major source of carbon and especially nitrogen to marine systems. Measured most often as their individual amino acids, proteins have traditionally been considered highly labile in the environment and rapidly recycled. Yet we and others have observed high molecular weight organic nitrogen as proteins (or their modified products) in particles and in dissolved phases in several environments. By developing new approaches for protein extraction and adapting biochemical methods we find that all proteins are not rapidly hydrolyzed during early diagenesis, but those which escape recycling in the water column and sediments are preserved as high molecular weight products. In the past decade we have found high molecular weight proteinaceous material in algal derived organic material preserved over millions of years. We are currently collaborating with medicinal chemists to apply state of the art LC-MS instrumentation and Trans-Proteomic Pipeline data analysis techniques to water particle and sediment samples collected from the Bering Sea. Analysis will be used to track the sources and contribution of proteins, and their degradation products, from the water column to sediment in marine systems.


Related Papers and Links

Moore, E.K., Nunn, B.L., Goodlett, D.L., and Harvey, H.R. 2012. Identifying and tracking proteins through the marine water column: Insights into the inputs and preservation mechanisms of protein in sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 83:324-359.

Harvey, H.R., Nunn, B.L., Faux, J.F., Moore, E.K., and Goodlett, D.L., 2012, A methodology for protein extraction and proteomic characterization in marine matrices. Ocean Sciences Meeting, 20-24 February, Salt Lake City, Utah. Poster Presentation

Nunn, B.L., Moore, E.K., Faux, J.F., Goodlett, D.L., and Harvey, H.R., 2012, From bloom to bust to the bottom: Proteins that survive the journey and why. Ocean Sciences Meeting, 20-24 February, Salt Lake City, Utah. Poster Presentation

Moore, E.K. and Harvey, H.R., 2009, A Proteomic Approach to the Sources and Fate of Proteins in the Bering Sea. ASMS Conference, May 31st – June 4th, Philadelphia, PA. Poster Presentation

Roth, L.C. and Harvey, H.R., 2006. Intact protein modification and degradation in estuarine environments. Marine Chemistry 102:33-45.

Nguyen, R.T., and Harvey, H.R., 2003. Preservation via macromolecular associations during Botryococcus braunii decay: proteins in the Pula Kerogen. Organic Geochemistry 34:1391-1403.

Nguyen, R.T., Harvey, H.R., Zang, X., van Heemst, J.D.H., Hetenyi, M., and Hatcher, P.G., 2003. Preservation of algaenan and proteinaceous material during the oxic decay of Botryococcus braunii as revealed by pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and 13C NMR spectroscopy. Organic Geochemistry 34:483-497.

Zang, X., Nguyen, R.T., Harvey, H.R., Knicker, H., and Hatcher, P.G., 2001. Preservation of proteinaceous material during the degradation of the green alga Botryococcus braunii: A solid-state 2D 15N 13C NMR spectroscopy study. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 65(19):3299-3305.

Nguyen, R.T., and Harvey, H.R., 2001. Preservation of protein in marine systems: Hydrophobic and other noncolvalent associations as major stabilizing forces. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 65(9):1467-1480.