GPI transamidase and GPI anchored proteins: oncogenes and biomarkers for cancer

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. Sep-Oct 2013;48(5):446-64. doi: 10.3109/10409238.2013.831024. Epub 2013 Aug 27.


Cancer is second only to heart disease as a cause of death in the US, with a further negative economic impact on society. Over the past decade, details have emerged which suggest that different glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins are fundamentally involved in a range of cancers. This post-translational glycolipid modification is introduced into proteins via the action of the enzyme GPI transamidase (GPI-T). In 2004, PIG-U, one of the subunits of GPI-T, was identified as an oncogene in bladder cancer, offering a direct connection between GPI-T and cancer. GPI-T is a membrane-bound, multi-subunit enzyme that is poorly understood, due to its structural complexity and membrane solubility. This review is divided into three sections. First, we describe our current understanding of GPI-T, including what is known about each subunit and their roles in the GPI-T reaction. Next, we review the literature connecting GPI-T to different cancers with an emphasis on the variations in GPI-T subunit over-expression. Finally, we discuss some of the GPI-anchored proteins known to be involved in cancer onset and progression and that serve as potential biomarkers for disease-selective therapies. Given that functions for only one of GPI-T's subunits have been robustly assigned, the separation between healthy and malignant GPI-T activity is poorly defined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Aminoacyltransferases / chemistry
  • Aminoacyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oncogenes / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Aminoacyltransferases
  • transamidases