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The glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI) protein-membrane anchors are ubiquitous among the eukaryotes. However, while mammalian cells typically express in the order of 100 thousand copies of GPI-anchor per cell, the parasitic protozoa, particularly the kinetoplastids, express up to 10-20 million copies of GPI-anchor and/or GPI-related glycolipids per cell. Thus GPI-family members dominate the cell surface molecular architecture of these organisms. In several cases, GPI-anchored proteins, such as the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) of the African trypanosomes, or GPI-related glycolipids, such as the lipophosphoglycan (LPG) of the Leishmania, are known to be essential for parasite survival and infectivity. The highly elevated levels and specialised nature of GPI metabolism in the kinetoplastid parasites suggest that the GPI biosynthetic pathways might be good targets for the development of chemotherapeutic agents. This article introduces the range of GPI structures found in protozoan parasites, and their mammalian hosts, and discusses some aspects of GPI biosynthesis.


Journal article



Publication Date



108 Suppl


S45 - S54


Animals, Carbohydrate Sequence, Cell Membrane, Glycosylphosphatidylinositols, Leishmania, Models, Biological, Molecular Sequence Data, Trypanosoma