Biosynthesis of Trypanosoma brucei variant surface glycoproteins. N-Glycosylation and addition of a phosphatidylinositol membrane anchor

Michael A. J. Ferguson, Michael Duszenko, Gretel S. Lamont, Peter Overath, George A. M. Cross

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    139 Citations (Scopus)


    The variant surface glycoprotein (VSGs) of Trypanosoma brucei are synthesized with a hydrophobic COOH-terminal peptide that is cleaved and replaced by a glycophospholipid, which anchors VSG to the surface membrane. The kinetics of VSG processing were studied by metabolic labeling with [35S]methionine and [3H]myristic acid. The COOH-terminal oligosaccharide-containing structure remaining after phospholipase removal of dimyristyl glycerol from membrane-form VSG could be detected serologically within 1 min of polypeptide synthesis in two T. brucei variants studied. Addition of the oligosaccharide-containing structure was resistant to tunicamycin. VSGs synthesized in the presence of tunicamycin displayed lower apparent molecular weights, consistent with the complete inhibition of N-glycosylation at one (variant 117), two (variant 221), or at least three (variant 118) internal asparagine sites. In most experiments, N-glycosylation appeared to occur during or immediately after polypeptide synthesis but in a few cases N-glycosylation was delayed or incomplete. In all cases, addition of the COOH-terminal oligosaccharide-containing structure occurred normally. In dual-labeling studies, cycloheximide caused rapid inhibition of both [35S]methionine and [3H]myristic acid incorporation, suggesting that myristic acid additon also occurs immediately after polypeptide synthesis. Our data suggest that the complex ethanolamine-glycosyl-dimyristylphosphatidylinositol structure of membrane-form VSG is added en bloc within 1 min of completion of the polypeptide.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)356-362
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 1986

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