Neurotransmitter transporters play a major role in achieving low concentrations of their respective transmitter in the synaptic cleft. The GABA transporter GAT1 belongs to the family of Na(+)- and Cl(-)-coupled transport proteins which possess 12 putative transmembrane domains and three N-glycosylation sites in the extracellular loop between transmembrane domain 3 and 4. To study the significance of N-glycosylation, green fluorescence protein (GFP)-tagged wild type GAT1 (NNN) and N-glycosylation defective mutants (DDQ, DGN, DDN and DDG) were expressed in CHO cells. Compared with the wild type, all N-glycosylation mutants showed strongly reduced protein stability and trafficking to the plasma membrane, which however were not affected by 1-deoxymannojirimycin (dMM). This indicates that N-glycosylation, but not terminal trimming of the N-glycans is involved in the attainment of a correctly folded and stable conformation of GAT1. All N-glycosylation mutants were expressed on the plasma membrane, but they displayed markedly reduced GABA-uptake activity. Also, inhibition of oligosaccharide processing by dMM led to reduction of this activity. Further experiments showed that both N-glycosylation mutations and dMM reduced the V(max) value, while not increasing the K(m) value for GABA uptake. Electrical measurements revealed that the reduced transport activity can be partially attributed to a reduced apparent affinity for extracellular Na+ and slowed kinetics of the transport cycle. This indicates that N-glycans, in particular their terminal trimming, are important for the GABA-uptake activity of GAT1. They play a regulatory role in the GABA translocation by affecting the affinity and the reaction steps associated with the sodium ion binding.