The role of N-linked glycosylation in protein maturation and transport has been studied by using the simian virus 5 hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) protein, a model class II integral membrane glycoprotein. The sites of N-linked glycosylation on HN were identified by eliminating each of the potential sites for N-linked glycosylation by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis on a cDNA clone. Expression of the mutant HN proteins in eucaryotic cells indicated that four sites are used in the HN glycoprotein for the addition of N-linked oligosaccharide chains. These functional glycosylation sites were systematically eliminated in various combinations from HN to form a panel of mutants in which the roles of individual carbohydrate chains and groups of carbohydrate chains could be analyzed. Alterations in the normal glycosylation pattern resulted in the impairment of HN protein folding and assembly which, in turn, affected the intracellular transport of HN. The severity of the consequences on HN maturation depended on both the number of deleted carbohydrate sites and their position in the HN molecule. Analysis of the reactivity pattern of HN conformation-specific monoclonal antibodies with the mutant HN proteins indicated that one specific carbohydrate chain plays a major role in promoting the correct folding of HN. Another carbohydrate chain, which is not essential for the initial folding of HN was found to play a role in preventing the aggregation of HN oligomers. The HN molecules which were misfolded, owing to their altered glycosylation pattern, were retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. Double-label immunofluorescence experiments indicate that misfolded HN and folded HN are segregated in the same cell. Misfolded HN forms disulfide-linked aggregates and is stably associated with the resident endoplasmic reticulum protein, GRP78-BiP, whereas wild-type HN forms a specific and transient complex with GRP78-BiP during its folding process.