Sedimentary rock from the Gessoso-solfifera Formation (Messinian) in the Vena del Gesso Basin (northern Italy) containing immature (Ro = 0.25%) S-rich organic matter was artificially matured by hydrous pyrolysis at temperatures from 160 to 330??C for 72 h to study the diagenetic fate of n-C37 and n-C38 di-and tri-unsaturated methyl and ethyl ketones (alkenones) biosynthesised by several prymnesiophyte algae. During early diagenesis, the alkenones are incorporated into the kerogen by both sulphur and oxygen cross-linking as indicated by chemical degradation experiments with the kerogen of the unheated sample. Heating at temperatures between 160 and 260??C, which still represents early stages of thermal maturation, produces large amounts (up to 1 mg/g TOC) of S-bound, O-bound, and both S-and O-bound n-C37 and n-C38 skeletons, saturated n-C37 and n-C38 methyl, ethyl, and mid-chain ketones, C37 and C38 mid-chain 2,5-di-n-alkylthiophenes, C37 and C38 1,2-di-n-alkylbenzenes, and C37 and C38 n-alkanes. With increasing thermal maturation, three forms of the n-C37 and n-C38 skeletons are relatively stable (saturated hydrocarbons, 1,2-di-n-alkylbenzenes and saturated ketones), whereas the S-and O-bound skeletons are relatively labile. These results suggest that in natural situations saturated ketones with an n-C37 and n-C38 skeleton can be expected as well as the corresponding hydrocarbons. Copyright ?? 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.