The role of lipids in membrane protein structure and function have been recognised for sometime but it is often difficult to distinguish bulk lipids from those that have a specific effect on structure and function. Using mass spectrometry we show that we can eject membrane protein complexes from detergent micelles in the gas phase revealing binding of individual lipid molecules. Once in the gas phase we actively unfold these complexes and monitor changes in collision cross section as a function of lipid binding. We then rank lipids according to their ability to stabilise membrane proteins identifying lipids that are important for both structure and function.
In this lecture I will present recent developments which show how we can not only link critical lipid binding with transport but also identify novel substrates.