The contact site A (csA) glycoprotein of Dictyostelium discoideum, a cell adhesion molecule expressed in aggregating cells, is inserted into the plasma membrane by a ceramide-based phospholipid (PL) anchor. A carboxyterminal sequence of 25 amino acids of the primary csA translation product proved to contain the signal required for PL modification. CsA is known to be responsible for rapid, EDTA-resistant cohesion of cells in agitated suspensions. To investigate the role of the PL modification of this protein, the anchor was replaced by the transmembrane region and short cytoplasmic tail of another plasma membrane protein of D. discoideum. In cells transformed with appropriate vectors, PL-anchored or transmembrane csA was expressed under the control of an actin promoter during growth and development. The transmembrane form enabled the cells to agglutinate in the presence of shear forces, similar to the PL-anchored wild-type form. However, the transmembrane form was much more rapidly internalized and degraded. In comparison to other cell-surface glycoproteins of D. discoideum the internalization rate of the PL-anchored csA was extremely slow, most likely because of its exclusion from the clathrin-mediated pathway of pinocytosis. Thus, our results indicate that the phospholipid modification is not essential for the csA-mediated fast type of cell adhesion but guarantees long persistence of the protein on the cell surface.

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