Non-acetylated glucosamine is an unusual structural feature shared by all glycosyl phosphatidylinositol (GPI) lipids, including a variety of membrane anchors, the leishmanial lipophosphoglycan, and a mediator of insulin action. We proposed previously a pathway for biosynthesis of glycolipid A, the precursor of the GPI membrane anchor of the trypanosome variant surface glycoprotein (Masterson, W.J., Doering, T.L., Hart, G.W., and Englund, P.T. (1989) Cell 56, 793-800). In this paper we characterize in more detail the initial steps of GPI assembly. The first and committed step in the pathway is the transfer of GlcNAc, from UDP-GlcNAc, to endogenous phosphatidylinositol to form N-acetylglucosaminyl phosphatidylinositol (GlcNAc-PI). The GlcNAc-PI is then efficiently deacetylated to form glucosaminyl phosphatidylinositol (GlcN-PI), the substrate for subsequent reactions en route to glycolipid A.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11168-11173
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1989


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