Carbohydrate-deficient glycoprotein syndrome (CDGS) type II is a multisystemic congenital disease with severe involvement of the nervous system. Two unrelated CDGS type II patients are shown to have point mutations (one patient having Ser-->Phe and the other having His-->Arg) in the catalytic domain of the gene MGAT2, encoding UDP-GlcNAc:alpha-6-D-mannoside beta-1,2-N- acetylglucosaminyltransferase II (GnT II), an enzyme essential for biosynthesis of complex Asn-linked glycans. Both mutations caused both decreased expression of enzyme protein in a baculovirus/insect cell system and inactivation of enzyme activity. Restriction-endonuclease analysis of DNA from 23 blood relatives of one of these patients showed that 13 donors were heterozygotes; the other relatives and 21 unrelated donors were normal homozygotes. All heterozygotes showed a significant reduction (33%-68%) in mononuclear-cell GnT II activity. The data indicate that CDGS type II is an autosomal recessive disease and that complex Asn-linked glycans are essential for normal neurological development.