The glycophosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors of proteins expressed on human erythrocytes and nucleated cells differ with respect to acylation of an inositol hydroxyl group, a structural feature that modulates their cleavability by PI-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC). To determine how this GPI anchor modification is regulated, the precursor and protein-associated GPIs in two K562 cell transfectants (ATCC and .48) exhibiting alternatively PI-PLC-sensitive and resistant surface proteins were analyzed and the temporal relationship between GPI protein transfer and acquisition of PI-PLC sensitivity was determined. Nondenaturing PAGE analyses demonstrated that, whereas in .48 transfectants the GPI anchors in decay accelerating factor (DAF) and placental alkaline phosphatase (PLAP) were >95% acylated, in ATCC transfectants, they were 60 and 33% unsubstituted, respectively. In contrast, TLC analyses revealed that putative GPI donors in the two lines were identical and were ≥95% acylated. Studies of de novo DAF biosynthesis in HeLa cells bearing proteins with >90% unacylated anchors showed that within 5 min at 37°C (or at 18°C, which does not permit endoplasmic reticilum exit), >50% of the anchor in nascent 44-kDa proDAF protein exhibited PI-PLC sensitivity. In vitro analyses of the microsomal processing of miniPLAP, a truncated PLAP reporter protein, demonstrated that the anchor donor initially transferred to prominiPLAP was acylated and then progressively was deacylated. These findings indicate that (i) the anchor moiety that initially transfers to nascent proteins is acylated, (ii) inositol acylation in mature surface proteins is regulated via posttransfer deacylation, which in general is cell-specific but also can be protein-dependent, and (iii) deacylation occurs in the endoplasmic reticulum immediately after GPI transfer
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