Highly enriched Golgi complex and endoplasmic reticulum fractions were isolated from total microsomes obtained from Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma congolense, and Trypanosoma vivax, and tested for glycosyltransferase activity. Purity of the fractions was assessed by electron microscopy as well as by biochemical analysis. The relative distribution of all the glycosyltransferases was remarkably similar for the three species of African trypanosomes studied. The Golgi complex fraction contained most of the galactosyltransferase activity followed by the smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum fractions. The dolichol-dependent mannosyltransferase activities were highest for the rough endoplasmic reticulum, lower for the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and lowest for the Golgi complex. Although the dolichol-independent form of N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase was essentially similar in all the fractions, the dolichol-dependent form of this enzyme was much higher in the endoplasmic reticulum fractions than in the Golgi complex fraction. Inhibition of this latter activity in the smooth endoplasmic reticulum fraction by tunicamycin A1 suggests that core glycosylation of the variable surface glycoprotein may occur in this organelle and not in the rough endoplasmic reticulum as previously assumed.

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