The glycoforms of a Trypanosoma brucei variant surface glycoprotein and molecular modeling of a glycosylated surface coat

Angela Mehlert, Charles S. Bond, Michael A. J. Ferguson

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    The plasma membrane of the African sleeping sickness parasite Trypanosoma brucei is covered with a dense, protective surface coat. This surface coat is a monolayer of five million variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) dimers that form a macromolecular diffusion barrier. The surface coat protects the parasite from the innate immune system and, through antigenic variation, the specific host immune response. There are several hundred VSG genes per parasite, and they encode glycoproteins that vary in primary amino acid sequence, the number of N-glycosylation sites, and the types of N-linked oligosaccharides and glycosylphosphatidylinositol membrane anchors they contain. In this study, we show that VSG MITat.1.5 is glycosylated at all three potential N-glycosylation sites, and we assign the oligosaccharides present at each site. Using the most abundant oligosaccharides at each site, we construct a molecular model of the glycoprotein to assess the role of N-linked oligosaccharides in the architecture of the surface coat.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)607-612
    Number of pages6
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002

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