The monosaccharide D-arabinopyranose has only been found in glycoconjugates of the trypanosomatid parasites Leishmania major, Endotrypanum schaudinni and Crithidia fasciculata. The donor molecule for the relevant arabinosyltransferases is known to be GDP-α-D-Arap in L. major and C. fasciculata, and the latter organism is being used to study the biosynthesis of GDP-α-D-Arap. In this study, we describe the structure of the terminal product of arabinose metabolism in C. fasciculata, namely lipoarabinogalactan. This molecule was purified by hydrophobic-interaction chromatography and studied by a variety of techniques, including gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, electrospray mass spectrometry and chemical and enzymic digestions. These data show that lipoarabinogalactan contains a previously described D-arabino-D-galactan polysaccharide component covalently attached to a glycosylphosphatidylinositol type of membrane anchor that is similar to, but not identical with, that found in the lipophosphoglycans of the Leishmania.

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