Molecular Size Distribution of Fluorophores in Aquatic Natural Organic Matter: Application of HPSEC with Multi-Wavelength Absorption and Fluorescence Detection Following LPSEC-PAGE Fractionation
Analytical high performance size exclusion liquid chromatography (HPSEC) with multiwavelength absorbance and fluorescence detections was used for the analysis of molecular size distribution and optical properties of dissolved natural organic matter. Experiments were conducted on Suwannee River organic matter (SRNOM) and its fractions A, B, C+D preliminary obtained by combination of preparative low pressure size exclusion chromatography and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (LPSEC-PAGE) and purified by dialysis on membrane with nominal cutoff 10 kDa, the fractions molecular size varied in order A B C + D 10 kDa. The multistep fractionation of SRNOM enabled the size-separation of at least five types of humic-like fluorophores within NOM showing emission maxima at 465, 450, 435, 420, and 405 nm. The decrease of the humic-like emission maxima paralleled the decrease of the nominal molecular size of fluorescent SRNOM. The protein-like fluorescence was split into tyrosine-like and tryptophan-like fluorophores and only detected in fractions A and B. This work provides new data on the optical properties of size-fractionated NOM, which consistent with the formation of supramolecular NOM assemblies, likely controlled by association of low-molecular size components. It is clearly observed for the high molecular size fraction A, containing free amino acids or short peptides. The combination of several different fractionation procedures is very useful for obtaining less complex NOM compounds and understanding the NOM function in the environment.