, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 117–135 | Cite as

Consistent proteinaceous organic matter partitioning into mineral and organic soil fractions during pedogenesis in diverse ecosystems

  • Jinyoung Moon
  • Kang Xia
  • Mark A. Williams


Proteinaceous compounds are critical in soil organic matter (SOM) formation and persistence, but the partitioning into mineral-associated and organic forms during hundreds and thousands of years of pedogenesis are poorly understood across multiple climates and vegetation types. We investigated the partitioning of amino acids (AA) into mineral-bound (MB) and non-mineral associated organic (NMO) soil fractions to discern whether consistent patterns during ecosystem development were observed across two different climates (cool temperate continental, USA; and moist oceanic forests, New Zealand). Although each ecosystem retained unique soil AA signatures, consistent patterns in both systems were observed with three main findings. (1) Regardless of differences in climate and vegetation between the two ecosystems, AA consistently partitioned in similar ways into MB and NMO soil fractions. For example, Thr, Ser, and Asx were relatively more dominant in the NMO fraction while Arg, Lys, Cys, and Met were relatively more dominant in the MB soil fraction. (2) AA change, showed similar trends related to chemical groupings of positively-charged, polar aromatic, sulfur containing, and non-polar AAs across both ecosystems consistent with changing patterns of soil Fe and Al bearing minerals, such as an increasing weathering index (WI; Fe dithionite/total Fe) and losses of Fe and Al from surface soils during ecosystem development. (3) The pedogenic patterns of AA change, in each system paralleled biological transitions in bacterial communities, suggesting a linkage between the AA sources and the soil sink that contributes to soil organic N. This latter point contrasts with the potential for complete change in soil AA composition that could occur upon processing and binding in soil. Overall, the consistency in the types of AAs that partition into either MB or NMO soil fractions across locations provide evidence of similar processes that contribute to soil organic N accrual across soils. Some AA also appeared to be retained in soil by electrostatic forces, and AA–organic matter interactions, that need further study. Mineral–metal complexation of AAs with sulfur side chain groups, and non-polar interactions, respectively, provide examples of these potential mechanisms for study. The results not only support mechanisms of soil proteinacous organic matter chemistry being driven by the interactions with the soil matrix, acting as a “sink”, but also draw attention to the sources of organic matter (microbes, plants) in determining the composition of organic N in soil during pedogenesis.


Soil organic matter Microbial Amino acids Proteinaceous Plant Chronosequence Mineral 



Amino acid


Soil organic matter


Organic matter


Soil organic nitrogen


Weathering index


Non-mineral associated organic





This research was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Foundational Programs (grant# 2011-03815). We acknowledge the DNR of the state of Michigan, Dr. Shankar G. Shanmugam for collecting soil samples from Lake Michigan chronosequence, Dr. Madhavi L. Kakumanu for the density fractionation of soils, Dr. Chao Shang for technical advice on the HPLC instrumentation, and Thurman Haynes for extraction of soil Fe and Al mineral fractions.

Supplementary material

10533_2018_523_MOESM1_ESM.docx (788 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 789 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Plant and Environmental SciencesVirginia Polytechnic Institute & State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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