Site-specific structural characterization of the glycosylation of human lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) was carried out using microbore reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (HPLC/ESIMS). A recently described mass spectrometric technique involving monitoring of carbohydrate-specific fragment ions during HPLC/ESIMS was employed to locate eight different groups of glycopeptides in a digest of a human LCAT protein preparation. In addition to the four expected N-linked glycopeptides of LCAT, a di-O-linked glycopeptide was detected, as well as three additional glycopeptides. Structural information on the oligosaccharides from all eight glycopeptides was obtained by sequential glycosidase digestion of the glycopeptides followed by HPLC/ESIMS. All four potential N-linked glycosylation sites (Asn20, Asn84, Asn272, and Asn384) of LCAT were determined to contain sialylated triantennary and/or biantennary complex structures. Two unanticipated O-linked glycosylation sites were identified at Thr407 and Ser409 of the LCAT O-linked glycopeptide, each of which contain sialylated galactose beta 1-->3N-acetylgalactosamine structures. The three additional glycopeptides were determined to be from a copurifying protein, apolipoprotein D, which contains potential N-linked glycosylation sites at Asn45 and Asn78. These glycopeptides were determined to bear sialylated triantennary oligosaccharides or fucosylated sialylated biantennary oligosaccharides. Previous studies of LCAT indicated that removal of the glycosylation site at Asn272 converts this protein to a phospholipase (Francone OL, Evangelista L, Fielding CJ, 1993, Biochim Biophys Acta 1166:301-304). Our results indicate that the carbohydrate structures themselves are not the source of this functional discrimination; rather, it must be mediated by the structural environment around Asn272.