Plasma membrane proteins are either peripheral proteins or integral membrane proteins. The latter include proteins that span the lipid bilayer once or several times, and another class that are covalently attached to lipids. Proteins attached to glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) via their carboxyl termini are generally found in the outer leaflet of the lipid bilayer and face the extracellular environment. The GPI membrane anchor may be conveniently thought of as an alternative to the single transmembrane domain of type-1 integral membrane proteins. This chapter reviews the discovery, distribution, structure, biosynthesis, properties, and suggested functions of GPI membrane anchors and related molecules.
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