Protein folding and quality control in the early secretory pathway function as posttranslational checkpoints in eukaryote gene expression. Herein, an aberrant form of the hepatic secretory protein alpha1-antitrypsin was stably expressed in a human embryonic kidney cell line to elucidate the mechanisms by which glycoprotein endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (GERAD) is administered in cells from higher eukaryotes. After biosynthesis, genetic variant PI Z underwent alternative phases of secretion and degradation, the latter of which was mediated by the proteasome. Degradation required release from calnexin- and asparagine-linked oligosaccharide modification by endoplasmic reticulum mannosidase I, the latter of which occurred as PI Z was bound to the molecular chaperone grp78/BiP. That a distinct GERAD program operates in human embryonic kidney cells was supported by the extent of PI Z secretion, apparent lack of polymerization, inability of calnexin to participate in the degradation process, and sequestration of the glycoprotein folding sensor UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase in the Golgi complex. Because UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase sustains calnexin binding, its altered distribution is consistent with a GERAD program that hinders the reentry of substrates into the calnexin cycle, allowing grp78/BiP to partner with a lectin, other than calnexin, in the recognition of a two-component GERAD signal to facilitate substrate recruitment. How the processing of a mutant protein, rather than the mutation itself, can contribute to disease pathogenesis, is discussed.