Two conformationally distinct regions were revealed by tryptic cleavage of six undenatured variant surface glycoproteins purified from clones of Trypanosoma brucei. Within 5 min, the native glycoproteins (65,000 mol.wt.) were cleaved, yielding a large N-terminal fragment (48,000-55,000 mol.wt. depending on the variant) together with one or more C-terminal fragments. After 30-60 min incubation, further breakdown of the large fragment occurred in some variants. The ultimate large product (40,000-52,000 mol.wt.) was very resistant to further degradation by trypsin (in the absence of denaturation). The distinction between N-terminal and C-terminal domains may be significant in relation to the organization and function of these glycoproteins on the trypanosome surface.

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