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Nature. 1988 May 19;333(6170):269-72.

Complete structure of the glycosyl phosphatidylinositol membrane anchor of rat brain Thy-1 glycoprotein.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, UK.


Glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors have recently been identified as alternatives to hydrophobic amino acid sequences for the attachment of a variety of eukaryotic cell surface molecules to the lipid bilayer. In single cell eukaryotes the GPI group appears to be the predominant form of membrane attachment, and in vertebrates a substantial minority of molecules have this anchor including cell surface hydrolytic enzymes, antigens and cell adhesion molecules. Analysis of different GPI anchors suggests they share common structural features including linkage to the COOH group of the terminal amino acid via ethanolamine phosphate, the presence of phosphatidylinositol lipid and a glycan between the bridging ethanolamine phosphate and the lipid. In the case of the Trypanosoma brucie variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) the full structure of the GPI anchor has been determined and this provides a prototype for comparison with other molecules. We now report the structure of the GPI anchor of rat brain Thy-1 glycoprotein. It has an identical backbone to the VSG anchor but shows significant differences in side chain moieties.

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