1Particle Chemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
2School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
3Dept. of Chem. & Biochem. & CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
4Applied Physics Department, Institute of Physics, University of São Paulo, Brazil
5Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany
6Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany
Abstract. The abundance of marker compounds for primary biological particles in submicron aerosol was investigated by means of aerosol mass spectrometry. Mass spectra of amino acids, carbohydrates, small peptides, and proteins, all of which are key building blocks of biological particles, were recorded in laboratory experiments. Several characteristic marker peaks were identified. The identified marker peaks were compared with mass spectra recorded during AMAZE-08, a field campaign conducted in the pristine rainforest of the Central Amazon Basin, Brazil, during the wet season of February and March 2008. The low abundance of identified marker peaks places upper limits of 7.5 % for amino acids and 5.6 % for carbohydrates on the contribution of primary biological aerosol particles (PBAPs) to the submicron organic aerosol mass concentration during this time period. Upper limits for the absolute submicron concentrations for both compound classes range from 0.01 to 0.1 μg m−3. Carbohydrates and protein amino acids make up for about two thirds of the dry mass of a biological cell. Thus, our findings suggest an upper limit for the PBAPs mass fraction of about 20 % to the submicron organic aerosol.