Abstract: The structure of cytochrome c bound to anionic lipid membranes composed of dimyristoyl, dipalmitoyl, or dioleoyl phosphatidylglycerols, or of bovine heart cardiolipin, has been investigated by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Only small changes in secondary structure, as registered by the amide I band of cytochrome c, were observed upon binding at temperatures below that of denaturation of the protein, and these were not coupled to the thermotropic phase transitions of the lipid. The denaturation temperature of the protein decreased by approximately 25-30-degrees upon binding, in a progression which correlated with that of the lipid phase transition temperatures, being approximately 7-degrees lower for complexes with dioleoyl than with dipalmitoyl phosphatidylglycerol. Large changes in the amide proton exchange characteristics, as monitored by the spectral shifts in the amide I band of the protein in D2O, were observed on binding cytochrome c to the lipid membranes. For the slowly exchanging population, the amide deuteration rates of the free protein were nearly independent of temperature, whereas those of the bound protein increased by up to two orders of magnitude over the temperature range from 10 to 40-degrees-C. In addition, the extent of exchange differed between the bound and unbound protein. A structural transition in the bound protein was detected as a discontinuous step in Arrhenius plots of the deuterium exchange rates which occurred at a temperature in the region of 22 to 29-degrees-C, depending on the lipid, far below that of denaturation. The temperature of this transition was determined by the physical state of the lipid, being 7-degrees lower for the lipids in the fluid state than for those in the gel state, and, for complexes with dimyristoyl phosphatidylglycerol, occurred at an intermediate temperature, being controlled by the lipid chain-melting transition at 27-28-degrees-C. These results provide evidence for a coupling of the tertiary structure of the membrane-bound protein with the physical state of the membrane lipids.