The lipid profiles of cotton fiber cells were determined from total lipid extracts of elongating and maturing cotton fiber cells to see whether the membrane lipid composition changed during the phases of rapid cell elongation or secondary cell wall thickening. Total FA content was highest or increased during elongation and was lower or decreased thereafter, likely reflecting the assembly of the expanding cell membranes during elongation and the shift to membrane maintenance (and increase in secondary cell wall content) in maturing fibers. Analysis of lipid extracts by electrospray ionization and tandem MS (ESI-MS/MS) revealed that in elongating fiber cells (7-10 d post-anthesis), the polar lipids-PC, PE, PI, PA, phosphatidylglycerol, monogalactosyldiacylglycerol, digalactosyldiacylglycerol, and phosphatidylglycerol-were most abundant. These same glycerolipids were found in similar proportions in maturing fiber cells (21 dpa). Detailed molecular species profiles were determined by ESI-MS/MS for all glycerolipid classes, and ESI-MS/MS results were consistent with lipid profiles determined by HPLC and ELSD. The predominant molecular species of PC, PE, PI, and PA was 34:3 (16:0, 18:3), but 36:6 (18:3,18:3) also was prevalent. Total FA analysis of cotton lipids confirmed that indeed linolenic (18:3) and palmitic (16:0) acids were the most abundant FA in these cell types. Bioinformatics data were mined from cotton fiber expressed sequence tag databases in an attempt to reconcile expression of lipid metabolic enzymes with lipid metabolite data. Together, these data form a foundation for future studies of the functional contribution of lipid metabolism to the development of this unusual and economically important cell type.