Glycoprotein biosynthesis was studied with mouse L-cells grown in suspension culture. Glucose-deprived cells incorporated [3H]mannose into ‘high-mannose’ protein-bound oligosaccharides and a few relatively high-molecular-weight lipid-linked oligosaccharides. The latter were retained by DEAE-cellulose and turned over quite slowly during pulse--chase experiments. Increased heterogeneity in size of lipid-linked oligosaccharides developed during prolonged glucose deprivation. Sequential elongation of lipid-linked oligosaccharides was also observed, and conditions that prevented the assembly of the higher lipid-linked oligosaccharides also prevented the formation of the larger protein-bound ‘high-mannose’ oligosaccharides. In parallel experiments, [3H]mannose was incorporated into a total polyribosome fraction, suggesting that mannose residues were transferred co-translationally to nascent protein. Membrane preparations from these cells catalysed the assembly from UDP-N-acetyl-D-[6-3H]glucosamine and GDP-D-[U-14C]mannose of polyisoprenyl diphosphate derivatives whose oligosaccharide moieties were heterogeneous in size. Elongation of the N-acetyl-D-[6-3H]glucosamine-initiated glycolipids with mannose residues produced several higher lipid-linked oligosaccharides similar to those seen during glucose deprivation in vivo. Glucosylation of these mannose-containing oligosaccharides from UDP-D-[6-3H]glucose was restricted to those of a relatively high molecular weight. Protein-bound saccharides formed in vitro were mainly smaller in size than those assembled on the lipid acceptors. These results support the involvement of lipid-linked saccharides in the synthesis of asparagine-linked glycoproteins, but show both in vivo and in vitro that protein-bound ‘high-mannose’ oligosaccharide formation can occur independently of higher lipid-linked oligosaccharide synthesis.

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