Human thyroperoxidase (hTPO), a type I transmembrane heme containing glycoprotein, catalyzes iodide organification and thyroid hormone synthesis and plays a major role in thyroid autoimmunity. Whereas hormonosynthesis occurs at the apical membrane of thyroid cells, TPO localizes mainly in the perinuclear membrane and the endoplasmic reticulum. To establish the intracellular trafficking and the structural characteristics of hTPO in the various cell compartments, hTPO was stably expressed in the Chinese hamster ovary cell line, and its folding was studied with two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs): mAb 47, recognizing a linear epitope; and mAb 15, recognizing a conformational epitope present in the mature protein. The results show that only 15-20% of hTPO molecules were able to acquire a conformation suitable for the recognition by mAb 15. On the other hand, only a part (approximately 15%) of the latter were able to reach the plasma membrane. The hTPO, unable to fold correctly, was more rapidly degraded than that recognized by mAb 15 (half-time, 2 h vs. 7 h). Study of the carbohydrate content of hTPO showed that N-glycans with complex-type structure were found only on hTPO at the cell surface, whereas intracellular hTPO bore high-mannose-type structures. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the intracellular pool of enzyme is formed of newly synthesized molecules and is not caused by recycling of mature hTPO from the cell surface. Complete inhibition of hTPO N-glycosylation with tunicamycin led to a 95% decrease in hTPO at the plasma membrane and, thus, to a decrease in enzymatic activity at the cell surface, emphasizing the role of N-glycans in the intracellular trafficking of hTPO. However, inhibition of formation of complex-type structures with deoxymannojirimycin and of O-glycans with phenyl-alpha-GalNAc did not influence the intracellular trafficking and enzymatic activity of hTPO.