Mass spectrometry of membrane protein complexes

Biol Chem. 2019 Jun 26;400(7):813-829. doi: 10.1515/hsz-2018-0443.


Membrane proteins are key players in the cell. Due to their hydrophobic nature they require solubilising agents such as detergents or membrane mimetics during purification and, consequently, are challenging targets in structural biology. In addition, their natural lipid environment is crucial for their structure and function further hampering their analysis. Alternative approaches are therefore required when the analysis by conventional techniques proves difficult. In this review, we highlight the broad application of mass spectrometry (MS) for the characterisation of membrane proteins and their interactions with lipids. We show that MS unambiguously identifies the protein and lipid components of membrane protein complexes, unravels their three-dimensional arrangements and further provides clues of protein-lipid interactions.

Keywords: lipids; mass spectrometry; membrane proteins; protein interactions; protein-lipid interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Solubility


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins