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A Bacterial Method for the Nitrogen Isotopic Analysis of Nitrate in Seawater and Freshwater

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Department of Geosciences, Guyot Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 08544, Magistère de Sciences de la Terre, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 46 Allée d’Italie, Lyon, France 69364, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, and U.S. Geological Survey, 431 National Center, Reston, VA 20192
Cite this: Anal. Chem. 2001, 73, 17, 4145–4153
Publication Date (Web):July 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 American Chemical Society

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    We report a new method for measurement of the isotopic composition of nitrate (NO3-) at the natural-abundance level in both seawater and freshwater. The method is based on the isotopic analysis of nitrous oxide (N2O) generated from nitrate by denitrifying bacteria that lack N2O-reductase activity. The isotopic composition of both nitrogen and oxygen from nitrate are accessible in this way. In this first of two companion manuscripts, we describe the basic protocol and results for the nitrogen isotopes. The precision of the method is better than 0.2‰ (1 SD) at concentrations of nitrate down to 1 μM, and the nitrogen isotopic differences among various standards and samples are accurately reproduced. For samples with 1 μM nitrate or more, the blank of the method is less than 10% of the signal size, and various approaches may reduce it further.


     Corresponding author. Fax:  609-258-1274. E-mail:  [email protected].

     Princeton University.

     École Normale Supérieure de Lyon.


     Harvard University.

     U.S. Geological Survey.

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