Thy-1 and a number of other proteins are anchored to the outer hemi-leaflet of membranes by a glycolipid moiety containing ethanolamine phosphate, mannose, glucosamine, and phosphatidylinositol. They nevertheless have the striking property of being able to transduce signals across the plasma membrane. We here demonstrate, for the BW5147 murine T lymphoma, that (a) greater than 90% of Thy-1 is at the cell surface, (b) Thy-1 is about one order of magnitude less concentrated in coated pits than the transferrin receptor or H-2 antigens, (c) Thy-1 undergoes at most very limited endocytosis or diacytosis, and (d) Thy-1 has an unusually slow turnover rate. Several similar observations have also been made for a second glycolipid-anchored protein, the T cell activating protein. Thus, the absence of cytoplasmic and trans-membrane domains may result in lipid-anchored proteins being confined to the cell surface and being free from constraints which affect the turnover of transmembrane proteins.

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