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ABSTRACT: Galactosyltransferase (GT) belongs to the glycosyltransferases. In several tissues and cell lines, the enzyme is localized by immunocytochemistry to the two to three trans cisternae of the Golgi complex and may thus be considered a specific membrane component of this type of endomembrane. As a consequence, it is the most common Golgi "marker" enzyme in cell fractionation studies. Study of its biosynthesis, membrane orientation, and turnover in several tissues and cultured cell lines has broadened our knowledge about Golgi function itself. The enzyme is oriented towards the lumen of the cisternal space. In this orientation, it catalyzes the transfer of galactose to glycoprotein-bound acetylglucosamine and, in the presence of alpha-lactalbumin, to glucose, as shown in the Golgi complex of mammary gland epithelial cells. The enzymatic properties of GT are well known. The metabolism of GT has been extensively studied in HeLa and human hepatoma cells. The enzyme is synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) and provided with one N-linked oligosaccharide and palmitate residues. In the Golgi complex, terminal sugars are attached to the N-linked oligosaccharide and extensive O-glycosylation takes place. The half-life of the enzyme is about 20 hr, after which a soluble form appears in the culture medium. Release of GT into the medium is observed in all cell lines studied. This phenomenon is in accordance with the presence of soluble GT in body fluids such as serum, ascites, milk, and saliva. In patients suffering from ovarian and breast cancer, increased levels of GT enzyme activity have been reported. Whether extracellular GT is of biological significance is still a point of discussion.CRC critical reviews in biochemistry 02/1986; 21(2):119-51.