The trypanosome variant surface glycoprotein (VSG), like many other eukaryotic cell surface proteins, is anchored to the plasma membrane by a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI) moiety. This glycolipid is assembled first as a precursor (glycolipid A) that is then covalently attached to the newly synthesized polypeptide. We have developed a trypanosome cell-free system capable of performing all of the steps in the biosynthesis of the glycan portion of glycolipid A. Using [3H]sugar nucleotides as substrates, several biosynthetic intermediates have been identified. From structural analyses of these intermediates, we propose a pathway for GPI biosynthesis. Based on comparisons between the VSG GPI anchor and similar structures in other cells, we believe that this same pathway will apply to the GPI anchors, and the related insulin-mediator compound, of higher eukaryotes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)