Two CHO glycosylation mutants that were previously shown to lack N-linked carbohydrates with GlcNAc beta 1,6Man alpha 1,6 branches, and to belong to the same genetic complementation group, are shown here to differ in the activity of N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase V (GlcNAc-TV) (UDP-GlcNA: alpha 1,6mannose beta-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase V). One mutant, Lec4, has no detectable GlcNAc-TV activity whereas the other, now termed Lec4A, has activity equivalent to that of parental CHO in detergent cell extracts. However, Lec4A GlcNAc-TV can be distinguished from CHO GlcNAc-TV on the basis of its increased sensitivity to heat inactivation and its altered subcellular compartmentalization. Sucrose density gradient fractionation shows that the major portion of GlcNAc-TV from Lec4A cells cofractionates with membranes of the ER instead of Golgi membranes where GlcNAc-TV is localized in parental CHO cells. Other experiments show that Lec4A GlcNAc-TV is not concentrated in lysosomes, or in a post-Golgi compartment, or at the cell surface. The altered localization in Lec4A cells is specific for GlcNAc-TV because two other Lec4A Golgi transferases cofractionate at the density of Golgi membranes. The combined data suggest that both lec4 and lec4A mutations affect the structural gene for GlcNAc-TV, causing either the loss of GlcNAc-TV activity (lec4) or its miscompartmentalization (lec4A). The identification of the Lec4A defect indicates that appropriate screening of different glycosylation-defective mutants should enable the isolation of other mammalian cell trafficking mutants.