Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins (GPI-APs) are a diverse class of proteins that are anchored to the membrane solely via means of a post-translational lipid modification, the GPI-moiety. Since their discovery in the late 1970s, years of research have provided significant insight into the functions of this ubiquitous modification. In addition to the structure and biosynthesis of the GPI-moiety, perhaps the best-studied feature of this glycolipid is its ability to impart characteristic membrane-trafficking properties to the proteins that it anchors. Study of the mechanism of sorting of GPI-APs has brought to light the importance of lateral heterogeneities in cell membranes, termed rafts, in biological sorting processes. The focus of this review is to examine the emerging role of the GPI-anchor and mechanisms involved in GPI-AP sorting in the context of intracellular trafficking pathways.
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