Glycosylation is essential to the synthesis, folding, and function of glycoproteins in eukaryotes. Proteins are co- and posttranslationally modified by a variety of glycans in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER); modifications include C- and O-mannosylation, N-glycosylation, and the addition of glycosylphosphatidylinositol membrane anchors. Protein glycosylation in the ER of eukaryotes involves enzymatic steps on both the cytosolic and lumenal surfaces of the ER membrane. The glycans are first assembled as precursor glycolipids, on the cytosolic surface of the ER, which are tethered to the membrane by attachment to a long-chain polyisoprenyl phosphate (dolichol) containing a reduced α-isoprene. The lipid-anchored building blocks then migrate transversely (flip) across the ER membrane to the lumenal surface, where final assembly of the glycan is completed. This strategy allows the cell to export high-energy biosynthetic intermediates as lipid-bound glycans, while constraining the glycosyl donors to the site of assembly on the membrane surface. This review focuses on the flippases that participate in protein glycosylation in the ER.

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Published in Lipid Insights, v. 8, suppl. 1, p. 45-53.

© the authors, publisher and licensee Libertas Academica Limited.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 3.0 License.

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Parts of this work were supported by NIH grants R01 GM36065 and GM102129 (C. Waechter).