The conditions required for mammalian-type complex N-linked glycosylation of human proteins produced in insect cells with the baculovirus expression vector system were investigated. Marked alterations to N-linked glycosylation of human placental secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) were observed with different baculovirus species, insect cell lines, and cell culture media. When a recombinant Autographa californica nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) was used to produce SEAP in Trichoplusia ni (Tn-4h) cells cultured in serum-free medium, structural analyses indicated <1% hybrid and no complex oligosaccharides attached to SEAP, a typical result with the baculovirus expression vector system. However, when fetal bovine serum was added to the culture medium, 48 +/- 4% of the oligosaccharides were hybrid or complex (but asialylated) glycans. When a recombinant T. ni nucleopolyhedrovirus (TnSNPV) was similarly used to express SEAP in Tn-4h cells cultured in serum-containing medium, only 24 +/- 3% of the glycans contained terminal N-acetylglucosamine and/or galactose residues. In contrast, SEAP produced in Sf9 cells grown in serum-containing medium with AcMNPV contained <1% hybrid oligosaccharides and no complex oligosaccharides. The results illustrate that baculovirus type, host cell type, and the growth medium all have a strong influence on the glycosylation pathway in insect cells, resulting in significant alterations in structures and relative abundance of N-linked glycoforms. Although the addition of sialic acid residues to the SEAP glycans was not detected, possible approaches to obtain sialylated glycans are discussed.