Effect of amino acids on the precipitation kinetics and Ca isotopic composition of gypsum

Khadouja Harouaka, James D. Kubicki, Matthew S. Fantle

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Stirred gypsum (CaSO4 · 2H2O) precipitation experiments (initial Ωgypsum = 2.4 ± 0.14, duration ≈ 1.0–1.5 h) were conducted in the presence of the amino acids glycine (190 µM), L-alanine (190 µM), D- and L-arginine (45 µM), and L-tyrosine (200 µM) to investigate the effect of simple organic compounds on both the precipitation kinetics and Ca isotopic composition of gypsum. Relative to abiotic controls, glycine, tyrosine, and alanine inhibited precipitation rates by ∼22%, 27%, and 29%, respectively, while L- and D-arginine accelerated crystal growth by ∼8% and 48%, respectively. With the exception of tyrosine, amino acid induced inhibition resulted in fractionation factors (αs-f) associated with precipitation that were no more than 0.3‰ lower than amino acid-free controls. In contrast, the tyrosine and D- and L-arginine experiments had αs-f values associated with precipitation that were similar to the controls. Our experimental results indicate that Ca isotopic fractionation associated with gypsum precipitation is impacted by growth inhibition in the presence of amino acids. Specifically, we propose that the surface-specific binding of amino acids to gypsum can change the equilibrium fractionation factor of the bulk mineral. We investigate the hypothesis that amino acids can influence the growth of gypsum at specific crystal faces via adsorption and that different faces have distinct fractionation factors (αface-fluid). Accordingly, preferential sorption of amino acids at particular faces changes the relative, face-specific mass fluxes of Ca during growth, which influences the bulk isotopic composition of the mineral. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations suggest that the energetic favorability of glycine sorption onto gypsum crystal faces occurs in the order: (1 1 0) > (0 1 0) > (1 2 0) > (0 1 1), while glycine sorption onto the (−1 1 1) face was found to be energetically unfavorable. Face-specific fractionation factors constrained by frequency calculations of clusters derived from DFT structures vary by as much as 1.4‰. This suggests that the equilibrium fractionation factor for the bulk crystal can vary substantially, and that surface sorption can induce changes in αeq associated with gypsum precipitation. While we do not rule out the influence of kinetic isotope effects, our results clearly demonstrate that the mode of crystal growth can have a sizeable effect on the bulk fractionation factor (αs-f). Ultimately, our results suggest that the same mechanism by which organic molecules affect the morphology of a mineral can also impact the isotopic composition of the mineral. The results of our study provide valuable insight into the mechanism of Ca isotopic fractionation during gypsum precipitation. Our results are also important for establishing a framework for accurate interpretations of mineral-hosted Ca isotope records of the past, as we demonstrate a mechanistic pathway by which the biological and chemical environment can impact Ca isotopic fractionation during mineral precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-364
Number of pages22
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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