Recent studies have shown that Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transfected with the FSH subunit genes secrete bioactive FSH. Here, we determined the in vitro and in vivo bioactivity of recombinant FSH produced by CHO mutant cells deficient in the glycosylation enzyme iV-acetylglucosamine transferase-I (NAGT-), resulting in glycoproteins with aspara-gine-linked (GlcNAc)2(Mannose)5 oligosaccharides, or mutant cells defective in sialic acid transport into the Golgi (ST-). In the latter, glycoproteins are secreted lacking terminal sialic acids. Determination of in vitro bioactivity, using the granulosa cell aromatase bioassay, indicated that both FSH variants are as active as FSH secreted by the wild type (WT) cells and purified pituitary FSH. Also, these normal and variant forms of FSH are equipotent in a radioligand receptor assay using rat testis membranes. However, the variant FSH molecules are more basic than the WT FSH as determined using a chromatofocusing column (pi: Wild type 3.6-5.0, NAGT- > 7.0, ST- ≈ 6.0 and > 7.0). Injection of immature estrogen-treated rats with WT FSH induced high aromatase activity in their granulosa cells whereas treatment with either one of the FSH variants was ineffective; the lack of in vivo activity of the FSH variants was correlated with rapid clearance of these molecules in serum. Thus, recom-binant human FSH produced by cells deficient in NAGT-I or defective in sialic acid transport retains normal receptor binding and in vitro bioactivity, but exhibits minimal in vivo activity and a shortened half-life when compared to WT FSH, indicating the important role of terminal sugars for FSH action in vivo.