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J Biol Chem. 1991 Jul 5;266(19):12119-22.

Identification of defects in glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor biosynthesis in the Thy-1 expression mutants.

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Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


A number of eukaryotic proteins are anchored to the membrane by glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI), of which the core structure is conserved from protozoan to mammalian cells. Here, we used a panel of thymoma mutants, which synthesize Thy-1 but cannot express it on the cell surface, to study the GPI biosynthetic pathway in mammalian cells. These mutants have been assigned into six complementation classes (A, B, C, E, F, H) by the technique of somatic cell hybridization. Using a combination of metabolic labeling and chemical/enzymatic tests, the biosynthetic defects were mapped to four different steps. Class A, C, and H mutants cannot transfer N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) to a phosphatidylinositol acceptor, suggesting that the first step of GPI synthesis is regulated by at least three genes. The Class E mutant does not synthesize dolichol-phosphate-mannose, the donor for the first mannose residue transferred to the GPI core, and thus cannot form any mannose-containing GPI precursors. Class B and F mutants are defective in the addition of the third mannose residue or ethanolamine phosphate, respectively, to the elongating GPI core. Our findings have implications for the biosynthesis and attachment of the mammalian GPI anchor.

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