Phospholipids are the main constituents of biological membranes. Their amphiphilic character is responsible for the typical bilayer arrangement as the structural basis of biological membranes. In addition to their structural role, some phospholipids are of significant functional importance. They act as intercellular messengers and are involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases. Therefore, phospholipid research (“lipidomics”) has significantly advanced in the last decades, generating the need for fast, reliable, and informative analytical techniques. The aim of this review is to demonstrate the power of 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for structural and analytical phospholipid research. High resolution 31P NMR provides information on the composition of phospholipid mixtures, whereas solid-state 31P NMR gives structural information about the sample phase and morphology. This review provides an introduction into the field and a short overview of currently used analytical and physicochemical methods to study these biomolecules. We will provide a theoretical description of 31P NMR spectroscopy and discuss methods for obtaining highly resolved phospholipid spectra. Selected applications of 31P NMR to aid phospholipid analysis and the investigation of phospholipid structures, membrane-peptide interactions, and enzyme activities are discussed. This review ends with an overview on 31P NMR applications to the analysis of body fluids, cells, and tissues.
Keywords: Lipidomics, Phospholipid phases, Detergents, High resolution and solid-state 31P NMR, Phospholipases, Lipid mixtures
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