Protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania produce the novel surface glycoconjugate, lipophosphoglycan (LPG), which is required for parasite infectivity. In this study we show that LPG structure is modified during the differentiation of L.major promastigotes from a less infectious form in logarithmic growth phase to a highly infectious 'metacyclic' form during stationary growth phase. In both stages, the LPGs comprise linear chains of phosphorylated oligosaccharide repeat units which are anchored to the membrane via a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol glycolipid anchor. During metacyclogenesis there is (i) an approximate doubting in the average number of repeat units per molecule from 14 to 30, (ii) a pronounced decrease in the relative abundance of repeat units with side chains of beta-Gal or Gal-beta-1-3Gal-beta-1-, and a corresponding increase in repeat units with either no side chains or with side chains of Arap-alpha-1-2 Gal-beta-1- and (iii) a decrease in the frequency with which the glycolipid anchor is substituted with a single glucose-alpha-1-phosphate residue. While the majority of the LPG phosphoglycan chains are capped with the neutral disaccharide, Man-alpha-1-2Man, a significant minority of the chains appeared to terminate in non-phosphorylated repeat units and may represent incompletely capped species. We suggest that the developmental modification of LPG may be important in modulating the binding of promastigotes to receptors in the sandfly midgut and on human macrophages and in increasing the resistance of metacyclic promastigotes to complement-mediated lysis.
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|Published - Oct 1992