Type I carbohydrate-deficient glycoprotein syndrome (CDGS) patients fail to add entire N-linked oligosaccharide chains to some serum glycoproteins. Here we show that four CDGS fibroblast cell lines have two related glycosylation abnormalities. First, they incorporate 3-10-fold less [3H] mannose into proteins, and, second, the size of the lipid-linked oligosaccharide precursor (LLO) is much smaller than in controls. Addition of exogenous mannose, but not glucose, to these CDGS cells corrects both the lowered [3H] mannose incorporation and the size of LLO. These corrections are not permanent, and the defects immediately reappear when mannose is removed. To explore further the basis of mannose correction, we analyzed the amount of 3H-labeled LLO intermediates. Except for dolichol-P-mannose, other precursors, including mannose, mannose-6-phosphate, mannose-1-phosphate, and GDP-mannose, all showed a 3-10-fold decrease in CDGS cells. Thus, there are no obvious lesions in the intracellular conversion of mannose into LLO, and, once inside the cell, [3H]mannose appeared to be metabolized normally. Initial velocities of [3H]mannose uptake were two- to threefold less in CDGS cells compared with controls, and this slower transport may partially explain the reduced [3H]mannose incorporation in CDGS cells. Since we previously showed that the enzymes converting glucose to mannose-6-phosphate appear to be normal, our results suggest that cells may acquire or generate mannose in other ways. Although we have not identified the primary defect in CDGS, these studies show that intracellular mannose is limited and that some patients might benefit from including mannose in their regular diets.