The surface of amastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi is covered by Ssp-4, a major stage-specific glycoprotein. Ssp-4 is anchored to the cell membrane by GPI. It can be metabolically labeled with [3H]myristic acid, and is converted into a hydrophilic form by treatment with the glycan-specific phospholipase C of T. brucei, or after lysis of the parasites in non-ionic detergents. The hydrophilic form of Ssp-4 is recognized by antibodies to the cross-reactive determinant of the variant surface glycoprotein of African trypanosomes. Ssp-4 is progressively shed during the intra- or extracellular development of amastigotes preceding their transformation into epi- and trypomastigotes. We show here that T. cruzi contains a phospholipase C and that most shed Ssp-4 is hydrophilic, does not contain myristic acid, and reacts with anti-CRD. These observations provide strong evidence that phospholipase C mediates the release of this glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored protein under physiological conditions, as the parasite undergoes differentiation.

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