Glycoproteins synthesized by the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum have been shown to contain asparagine-linked high-mannose oligosaccharides which have an N-acetylglucosamine group in a novel intersecting position (attached beta 1-4 to the mannose linked alpha 1-6 to the core mannose). We have used crude membrane preparations from vegetative D. discoideum (strain M4) to characterize the enzyme activity responsible for catalyzing the transfer of GlcNAc to the intersecting position of high-mannose oligosaccharides. UDP-GlcNAc:oligosaccharide beta-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase activity in these preparations attaches GlcNAc to the mannose residue-linked alpha 1-6 to the beta-linked core mannose of the following Man9GlcNAc oligosaccharide as shown by the arrow. (formula; see text) It will also attach GlcNAc to the same intersecting position and/or to the bisecting position (beta-linked core mannose) of the following Man5GlcNAc oligosaccharide. (formula; see text) An analysis of the pH profiles, effects of heat denaturation, and substrate inhibitions on the addition of GlcNAc to either the intersecting or bisecting position of this Man5GlcNAc oligosaccharide indicates that a single enzyme activity is responsible for transferring GlcNAc to both positions. Various oligosaccharides were assayed to determine the substrate specificity of the transferase activity. These data indicate that both the mannose-attached alpha 1-3 and the mannose-attached alpha 1-6 to the mannose receiving the GlcNAc play a critical role in substrate suitability; absence of the alpha 1-6 mannose results in at least a 90% decrease in activity, while absence of the alpha 1-3 mannose results in a completely inactive substrate. This suggests that the minimal substrate is the disaccharide Man alpha 1-3Man.