Abstract

Many infaunal marine invertebrates produce mucous excretions, composed primarily of the glycoprotein mucin, that play important roles in burrow stabilization. As with other biopolymers, the ionization of mucin provides highly reactive organic ligands that enable the sorption of metal cations from seawater. Owing to the difficulties in its isolation, however, the specific role of mucin in the adsorptive properties of animal secretions in marine environments is poorly understood. Here we apply a surface complexation approach to model proton and Cd adsorption behavior of partially purified Type III porcine gastric mucin (PGM), a commercially available analog to natural infaunal mucus. FTIR, proton and cadmium adsorption experiments indicate that Type III PGM mimics the acid-base and metal complexation behavior of natural mucous gels excreted by terebellid polychaete worms. At marine pH, nearly two-thirds of the total ligands in mucin-type glycoproteins are deprotonated and thus available to participate in metal cation adsorption reactions. Importantly, the concentration of available organic ligands in mucin exceeds (by up to 5 times) that of a variety of other metal-reactive organic compounds comprising the organic fraction of marine sediments. A substantial fraction of the dissolved organic matter in the bioturbated zone of marine sediments occurs in the form of mucin-associated glycoproteins; the availability of such organic materials may strongly influence the distribution of cations at the burrow margin.

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