Sequential expression of variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) enables the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei to evade the immune response of its mammalian hosts. Studies of several VSGs, which have been isolated as soluble molecules following disruption of cells in the absence of detergent, have indicated extensive amino acid diversity and the absence of a hydrophobic segment which might serve to anchor the carboxy terminus to the membrane. The carboxy-terminal tryptic peptides of six VSGs have recently been characterized and shown to be glycosylated. Three of these VSGs terminated with a glycosylated aspartate or asparagine residue (Asx), suggesting that the VSG was cleaved following synthesis and glycosylation and before characterization. We present here nucleotide sequence data which suggest that the primary translation product of one VSG gene contains a hydrophobic tail at the carboxy terminus which is not found on the isolated, mature glycoprotein. The data also predict that the glycosylated residue is aspartic acid rather than the anticipated asparagine.

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Nature: international weekly journal of science
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Boothroyd, J.C, Cross, G.A.M, Hoeijmakers, J.H.J, & Borst, P. (1980). A variant surface glycoprotein of Trypanosoma brucei is synthesized with a hydrophobic carboxy-terminal extension from purified glycoprotein. Nature: international weekly journal of science, 288, 624–636. Retrieved from