In this paper, uridine diphosphate (UDP)-N-acetylglucosamine/beta -D-naannoside beta -1,4 N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase III (GlcNAc-transferase-III C 126.96.36.199) activity was determined in human hepatoma cell lines of Hep3B and HepG2, and also compared with those of normal liver tissues and primary hepatocytes. GlcNAc-transferase-III enzymes of Hep3B and HepG2 were mainly detected in the membrane fraction. When GlcN,GlcN-biant-PA and UDP-GlcNAc were used as substrates, the K-m values (4.7 mM for UDP-GlcNAc and 1.1 mM for GlcN,GlcN-biant-PA) of Hep3B GlcNAc-transferase-III were distinguishable from those of HepG2 GlcNAc-transferase-III (6.8 mM for UDP-GlcNAc and 3.4 mM for GlcN,GlcN-biant-PA). Furthermore, Hep3B enzyme in membrane fraction showed about 1.5 fold higher specific activity (1423 pmol/hr/mg) than that of HepG2 (1066 pmol/hr/mg). Normal liter cells and primary adult hepatocytes are characterized by a very low level of GlcNAc-transferase-III activity, whereas human hepatoma cells exhibited high activities. These data were supported by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction results, showing that expression of the GlcNAc-transferase-III mRNA increased in proportion to the enzymatic activities. Although the mechanism underlying the induction of this enzyme is unknown, lectin blot analysis showed that oligosaccharides in many glycoproteins were observed in hepatoma cells. By treating hepatocarcinoma cultures that express GlcNAc-transferase-III with inhibitors (tunicamycin, deoxymannojirimycin, and swainsonine) of different steps of the glycosylation, we provide evidence that expression of GlcNAc-transferase-III mRNA is dependent on glycosylation of cellular proteins.