The unique biology of GPI anchors

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, or GPI-APs, are an important class of cell-surface protein. GPI-APs are essential for several normal processes, including development and immune function and, according to Taroh Kinoshita of Osaka University in Japan, “are used ubiquitously by eukaryotes to attach proteins to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane.”

Kinoshita is the coordinator of a new thematic review series published in the Journal of Lipid Research that brings together recent findings regarding GPI anchors and their associated proteins.

The series of four reviews asks important questions about GPI-APs. How are they made? How are they transported and organized at the cell’s surface? What happens when they are released?

Findings presented in the JLR series challenge the current view that the cell’s surface is a dynamic layer that only minimally restricts the free movement of molecules. The studies suggest a more complex relationship between the cell surface and the underlying structural skeleton in which the skeleton imposes a more orderly distribution of molecules at the cell surface.

Kinoshita notes that the series should help change the current perspective on molecular distribution at the cell surface — a remarkable shift.

An introduction from Kinoshita and the four reviews that make up the series “Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) Anchors: Biochemistry and Cell Biology” are currently available in the JLR.

Biosynthesis of GPI-anchored proteins: special emphasis on GPI lipid remodeling

Taroh Kinoshita, Osaka University, Japan
Morihisa Fujita, Jiangnan University, China

Trafficking of glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum to the cell surface

Manuel Muñiz, University of Seville, Spain
Howard Riezman, University of Geneva, Switzerland

GPI-anchored protein organization and dynamics at the cell surface

Suvrajit Saha, Anupama Ambika Anilkumar and Satyajit Mayor, National Centre of Biological Sciences, India

GPI-AP release in cellular, developmental and reproductive biology

Yoshitaka Fujihara and Masahito Ikawa, Osaka University, Japan

Bree Yanagisawa Bree Yanagisawa is a science writing intern at ASBMB Today and a Ph.D. candidate in pathobiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.