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J Cell Sci. 1999 Sep;112 ( Pt 17):2799-809.

The structure, biosynthesis and functions of glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchors, and the contributions of trypanosome research.

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Division of Molecular Parasitology and Biological Chemistry, Department of Biochemistry, The Wellcome Trust Building, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 5EH, UK.


The discovery of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) membrane anchors has had a significant impact on several areas of eukaryote cell biology. Studies of the African trypanosome, which expresses a dense surface coat of GPI-anchored variant surface glycoprotein, have played important roles in establishing the general structure of GPI membrane anchors and in delineating the pathway of GPI biosynthesis. The major cell-surface molecules of related parasites are also rich in GPI-anchored glycoproteins and/or GPI-related glycophospholipids, and differences in substrate specificity between enzymes of trypanosomal and mammalian GPI biosynthesis may have potential for the development of anti-parasite therapies. Apart from providing stable membrane anchorage, GPI anchors have been implicated in the sequestration of GPI-anchored proteins into specialised membrane microdomains, known as lipid rafts, and in signal transduction events.

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