GnTI (N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I) is a Golgi-resident enzyme essential for the processing of high-mannose to hybrid and complex N-glycans. The Arabidopsis thaliana cgl mutant lacks GnTI activity and as a consequence accumulates oligomannosidic structures. Molecular cloning of cgl GnTI cDNA revealed a point mutation, which causes a critical amino acid substitution (Asp144-->Asn), thereby creating an additional N-glycosylation site. Heterologous expression of cgl GnTI in insect cells confirmed its lack of activity and the use of the N-glycosylation site. Remarkably, introduction of the Asp144-->Asn mutation into rabbit GnTI, which does not result in the formation of a new N-glycosylation site, led to a protein with strongly reduced, but still detectable enzymic activity. Expression of Asn144 rabbit GnTI in cgl plants could partially restore complex N-glycan formation. These results indicate that the complete deficiency of GnTI activity in cgl plants is mainly due to the additional N-glycan, which appears to interfere with the proper folding of the enzyme.