The Sindbis virus glycoproteins, E1 and E2, comprise a useful model system for evaluating the effects of local protein structure on the processing of N-linked oligosaccharides by Golgi enzymes. The conversion of oligomannose to N-acetyllactosamine (complex) oligosaccharides is hindered to different extents at the four glycosylation sites, so that the complex/oligomannose ratio decreases in the order E1-Asn139 greater than E2-Asn196 greater than E1-Asn245 greater than E2-Asn318. The processing steps most susceptible to interference were deduced from the oligosaccharide compositions at hindered sites in virus from baby hamster kidney cells (BHK), chick embryo fibroblasts (CEF), and normal and hamster sarcoma virus (HSV)-transformed hamster fibroblasts (Nil-8). Persistence of Man6-9GlcNAc2 was taken to indicate interference with alpha 2-mannosidase(s) I (alpha-mannosidase I), Man5GlcNAc2, with UDP-GlcNAc:alpha-D-mannoside beta 1----2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I (GlcNAc transferase I), and unbisected hybrid glycans, with GlcNAc transferase I-dependent alpha 3(alpha 6)-mannosidase (alpha-mannosidase II). Taken together, the results indicate that all four sites acquire a precursor oligosaccharide with equally high efficiency, but alpha-mannosidase I, GlcNAc transferase I, and alpha-mannosidase II are all impeded at E2-Asn318 and, to a lesser extent, at E1-Asn245. In contrast, sialic acid and galactose transfer to hybrid glycans (in BHK cells) is virtually quantitative even at E2-Asn318. E2-Asn318 carried no complex oligosaccharides, but the structures of those at E1-Asn245 indicate almost complete GlcNAc transfer by UDP-GlcNAc:alpha-D-mannoside beta 1----2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase II (GlcNAc transferase II), galactosylation, and sialylation. Because the E2-Asn318 and E1-Asn245 glycans have previously been shown to be less accessible to a steric probe than those at E2-Asn196 or E1-Asn139, a simple explanation for these results would be that alpha-mannosidase I, GlcNAc transferase I, and alpha-mannosidase II are more susceptible to steric hindrance than are the later processing steps examined. Finally, in addition to these site-specific effects, the overall extent of viral oligosaccharide processing varied with host and cellular growth status. For example, alpha-mannosidase I processing is more complete in BHK cells compared to CEF, and in confluent Nil-8 cells compared to subconfluent or HSV-transformed Nil-8 cells.