Porphyrins from Messel oil shale (Eocene, Germany): Structure elucidation, geochemical and biological significance, and distribution as a function of depth
The extraction and isolation procedures of twenty nickel porphyrins (seven alkylporphyrins, thirteen carboxylic acids) from lacustrine Messel shale (Eocene, Germany), as well as the unequivocal structural assignments (obtained using 200 and 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), nuclear Overhauser effect, mass spectrometry and total or partial synthesis of six reference compounds) are described. Ten porphyrins could be specifically correlated with biological precursors: algal chlorophyll c (4), bacteriochlorophylls d (3) and heme (3), while the remaining ones may arise from several chlorophylls. The structures of these fossil pigments mostly confirm the classical "Treibs scheme," including the origin of some porphyrins from nonchlorophyll sources. They also show that, even in a very immature sediment, deep modifications occur, including, in particular, extensive degradation of chlorophyll E ring. The composition of the porphyrin fractions of Messel oil shale was also studied as a function of depth. A porphyrin acids/alkylporphyrins ratio varying from 0.35 to 24.8 demonstrated that the apparent homogeneity of the shale is not reflected on the molecular scale. This was confirmed when the abundance of the twenty individual porphyrins of known structure was measured along the core. Significant correlations between individual porphyrins were found: fossils of bacteriochlorophylls d, homolog pairs of porphyrins (3-H/3-ethyl), etc.