The role of glycosyl-PtdIns (GPI)-anchored proteins in the cytodifferentiation of Tetrahymena vorax was examined. Labelling of cells with [3H]myristate or [3H]palmitate followed by electrophoresis showed an array of proteins carrying covalently bound lipids. Electrophoresis of protein from cells labelled with the GPI-anchor components [3H]Ins and [14C]ethanolamine revealed three polypeptides on fluorograms which have apparent molecular masses of approx. 28, 50 and 82 kDa. Labelled lipid associated with these polypeptides was susceptible to release by in vitro exposure to Bacillus thuringiensis PtdIns-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC). Using labelled fatty acids, cells induced to differentiate showed altered GPI-anchored protein-labelling patterns in comparison with undifferentiated control cells, with a heavily labelled 32 kDa band appearing upon differentiation. Pre-incubation of cells in 10 mM D-mannosamine, an inhibitor of GPI incorporation into protein, resulted in a reduction of the incorporation of label into the three GPI-anchored proteins, nearly complete inhibition of differentiation and a reduction in the rate of digestive vacuole formation. A 50% inhibition of differentiation was obtained using 500 microM mannosamine. The inhibitory impact of D-mannosamine on differentiation could be competitively and completely reversed by the inclusion of D-mannose, but not D-glucose. Neither glucosamine nor tunicamycin inhibited differentiation. Incubation of cells in PI-PLC (5 units/ml) plus the differentiation inducer resulted in an acceleration of differentiation and generally higher percentages of differentiated cells versus controls.

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