Substructure components of various aquatic humic substances were investigated by a coupled pyrolysis - gas chromatography - Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (Py-GC-FTIR) procedure. The humic substances studied gave similar pyrolysis products, but in varying proportions. Many of the pyrolysis products (e.g. methanol, acetone, alkylbenzenes, cyclopentane, aliphatic and aromatic organic acids, acetamide, pyrrole and phenols) could be identified by their FTIR spectra using a digital library for automatic comparison. Some of the compounds are related to lignin fragments which form a large part of the humic substances investigated. Other products give hints to the involvement of tetrapyrroles, fatty acids, furanoses and amino compounds in the structure of humic macromolecules.