IAB Research Project Description

Stable Isotope Fingerprinting: A Novel Approach for Identifying Amino Acid Biosynthetic Sources, Using Stable Isotope Variation Among Amino Acids

We tested whether we could identify organic matter (specifically, amino acids) synthesized by plants, fungi or bacteria using unique patterns of amino acid carbon isotope ratios. We grew pure cultures of 10-13 different fungi, bacteria and plants, mostly collected and cultured from boreal forest soils, and measured the carbon isotope ratios of individual amino acids grown by each organism. We found that indeed, patterns of amino acid carbon isotope ratios are clearly diagnostic of the type of organism that grew them. This is important because it allows us to evaluate the key primary producers of amino acids for animal dietary ecology and foodweb studies. For example, we are currently using these techniques to demonstrate a previously unknown nutritional symbiosis in enchytraids, which are one of the most important decomposer organisms in arctic tundra soils.

Project Funding

National Science Foundation
1 Sep 2006 – 31 Aug 2008
IAB Project #239

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Information Officer
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I Bldg.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907-474-7412