The global distribution of Isoprenoidal Glycerol Dialkyl Diethers (isoGDDs) is consistent with a predominant degradation origin

Joe S Hingley, Cesar C. Martins, Chloe A Walker-Trivett, Jennifer K. Adams, Sebastian Naeher, Christoph Haggi, Sarah J. Feakins, B D A Naafs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Glycerol dialkyl diethers (GDDs) are membrane lipids and a variation of the more commonly known glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). GDGTs include both archaeal and bacterial membrane lipids that are both frequently used for paleoclimate reconstruction in a range of terrestrial and aquatic environments. In contrast to GDGTs, GDDs lack one of the terminal glycerol moieties. Although both isoprenoidal (iso) and branched (br) GDDs have been found, this study focuses on isoGDDs. These lipids have been found in a few terrestrial and aquatic environments. However, the origin of isoGDDs is debated and the extent of their distribution across the surface of the Earth is poorly constrained. Based on a few single site studies, previous authors hypothesised that isoGDDs are degradation products of isoGDGTs, but more recent studies that isolated isoGDDs from cultured nitrososphaerota (formerly thaumarchaeota) proposed a biological source through direct archaeal biosynthesis. Here we compiled a global dataset of isoGDD and isoGDGT abundance in environmental samples to thoroughly investigate the distribution of isoGDDs and the correlation with isoGDGTs on a global scale and across a variety of environments (peat, mineral soils, lake sediments, and marine sediments). We find that isoGDDs are present in most samples that we analysed. Their abundance is strongly proportional to isoGDGT abundance (r2 = 0.85), dominated by the GDGT-crenarchaeol/GDD-crenarchaeol ratio (r2 = 0.94) and supported by individual compound isoGDGT/isoGDD ratios (r2 = 0.56–0.94). In addition, the degree of cyclisation of isoGDDs, reflected in the ring index, is positively correlated (r2 = 0.84) with that of isoGDGTs across all environments. We conclude that isoGDDs are abundant on the surface of the Earth and predominantly originate from the degradation of isoGDGTs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104782
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Early online date25 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024

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