Mass Spectrometric Identification of Glycosylphosphatidylinositol-Anchored Peptides

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchoring is a post-translational modification widely observed among eukaryotic membrane proteins. GPI anchors are attached to proteins via the carboxy-terminus in the outer leaflet of the cell membrane, where GPI-anchored proteins (GPI-APs) perform important functions as coreceptors and enzymes. Precursors of GPI-APs (Pre-GPI-APs) contain a C-terminal hydrophobic sequence that is involved in cleavage of the signal sequence from the protein and addition of the GPI anchor by the transamidase complex. In order to confirm that a given protein contains a GPI anchor, it is essential to identify the C-terminal peptide containing the GPI-anchor modification site (ω-site). Previously, efficient identification of GPI-anchored C-terminal peptides by mass spectrometry has been difficult, in part because of complex structure of the GPI-anchor moiety. We developed a method to experimentally identify GPI-APs and their ω-sites. In this method, a part of GPI-anchor moieties are removed from GPI-anchored peptides using phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) and aqueous hydrogen fluoride (HF), and peptide sequence is then determined by mass spectrometry. Using this method, we successfully identified 10 GPI-APs and 12 ω-sites in the cultured ovarian adenocarcinoma cells, demonstrating that this method is useful for identifying efficiently GPI-APs.