Incorporation of 14C-depleted (old) dissolved organic carbon (DOC) on/into particulate organic carbon (POC) has been suggested as a possible mechanism to explain the low Δ14C-POC values observed in the deep ocean [Druffel, E.R.M., Williams, P.M., 1990. Identification of a deep marine source of particulate organic carbon using bomb 14C. Nature, 347, 172-174.]. A shipboard incubation experiment was performed in the Sargasso Sea to test this hypothesis. Finely ground dried plankton was incubated in seawater samples from the deep Sargasso Sea, both with and without a biological poison (HgCl2). Changes in parameters such as biochemical composition and carbon isotopic signatures of bulk POC and its organic compound classes were examined to study the roles of sorptive processes and biotic activity on POC character. Following a 13-day incubation, the relative abundance of the acid-insoluble organic fraction increased. Abundances of extractable lipids and total hydrolyzable amino acids decreased for both treatments, but by a greater extent in the non-poisoned treatment. The Δ14C values of POC recovered from the non-poisoned treatment were significantly lower than the value of the unaltered plankton material used for the incubation, indicating incorporation of 14C-depleted carbon, most likely DOC. The old carbon was present only in the lipid and acid-insoluble fractions. These results are consistent with previous findings of old carbon dominating the same organic fractions of sinking POC from the deep Northeast Pacific [Hwang, J., Druffel, E.R.M., 2003. Lipid-like material as the source of the uncharacterized organic carbon in the ocean? Science, 299, 881-884.]. However, the Δ14C values of POC recovered from the poisoned treatment did not change as much as those from the non-poisoned treatment suggesting that biological processes were involved in the incorporation of DOC on/into POC. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.