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Current progress and future trends in mass spectrometry-based archaeal lipidomics

Law, Kai P., Zhang, Chuanlun L.
Organic geochemistry 2019 v.134 pp. 45-61
Archaea, bioinformatics, chemical structure, databases, ecosystems, environmental factors, environmental science, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, geochemistry, lipids
Archaea play pivotal roles in geochemical cycles in global ecosystems, but little is known about the membrane functions of these organisms under different environmental conditions. Mass spectrometry (MS) is an indispensable tool for the study of the Archaea and their unique isoprenoidal ether-linked lipids. A variety of techniques, including GC–MS, UHPLC-MS, MALDI-MS, and shotgun lipidomics, have been employed for studying archaeal lipids and significant progress has been made in the last two decades. These developments often make use of high-mass resolution systems to perform untargeted fingerprinting of archaeal lipids from complex cellular and environmental samples. As a result, these methods generate a large volume of data that cannot be easily processed, analyzed, and interpreted manually. Recent progress in bioinformatics has thus become an important factor for the development of this research field. Still, there are challenges associated with complications in sample preparation, differentiating closely or co-eluted isomeric and isobaric lipids, and elucidation of compounds with unknown structures. Furthermore, while a collection of archaeal lipids has been reported, only a limited number of chemical structures are currently available in freely accessible databases, and little progress has been made to amalgamate the experimental data and construct an archaeal lipid-specific structural and spectral library. This article describes the progress and evaluates the benefits and drawbacks of MS-based techniques and contemplates potential solutions to overcome current challenges for future lipidomic research in organic geochemistry and environmental sciences.