Proteins and Amino Acids in Fine Particulate Matter in Rural Guangzhou, Southern China: Seasonal Cycles, Sources, and Atmospheric Processes


Water-soluble proteinaceous matter including proteins and free amino acids (FAAs) as well as some other chemical components was analyzed in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) samples collected over a period of one year in rural Guangzhou. Annual averaged protein and total FAAs concentrations were 0.79 ± 0.47 μg m–3 and 0.13 ± 0.05 μg m–3, accounting for 1.9 ± 0.7% and 0.3 ± 0.1% of PM2.5, respectively. Among FAAs, glycine was the most abundant species (19.9%), followed by valine (18.5%), methionine (16.1%), and phenylalanine (13.5%). Both proteins and FAAs exhibited distinct seasonal variations with higher concentrations in autumn and winter than those in spring and summer. Correlation analysis suggests that aerosol proteinaceous matter was mainly derived from intensive agricultural activities, biomass burning, and fugitive dust/soil resuspension. Significant correlations between proteins/FAAs and atmospheric oxidant (O3) indicate that proteins/FAAs may be involved in O3 related atmospheric processes. Our observation confirms that ambient FAAs could be degraded from proteins under the influence of O3, and the stoichiometric coefficients of the reactions were estimated for FAAs and glycine. This finding provides a possible pathway for the production of aerosol FAAs in the atmosphere, which will improve the current understanding on atmospheric processes of proteinaceous matter.
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