The occurrence of stanols in various living organisms and the behavior of sterols in contemporary sediments
Unsaturated sterols (stenols) and saturated sterols (stanols) in phytoplankton and Zooplankton from Lake Suwa and from higher plants around the lake were analyzed by combined GLC and MS. In all the organisms investigated, 5α-cholestanol, 24-methylcholestan-3β-ol and 24-ethyl-5α-cholestanol were found, although in low concentrations, together with large quantities of stenols. This strongly suggests the contribution of stanols from living organisms to recent sediments. Findings from incubation experiments of cholesterol and 5α-cholestanol in the surface sediment from Lake Suwa extending through 450 days suggest the following: (1) stanols are slowly degraded and tend to survive unaltered in sediments in comparison with stenols, (2) in a relatively oxidative depositional environment such as Lake Suwa, the greater part of the stanols in the surface sediment originates from living organisms, (3) the reduction zone in which the degradation of sterols is suppressed and the rapid hydrogenation of stenols takes place may be in the microbiologically active sediment from 1 cm to about 10 cm in Lake Suwa, and (4) the increase in the ratio of stanols to stenols with depth below the zone may be caused by the simultaneous progress of preferential degradation and slow hydrogenation of stenols during long-term preservation in sediments.