Hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations were used to study the catalytic mechanism of the retaining human α-(1,3)-galactosyltransferase (GTBWT) and its E303C mutant (GTBE303C). Both backside (via covalent glycosyl-enzyme intermediate, CGEI) and frontside SNi-like mechanisms (via oxocarbenium-ion intermediate, OCII) were investigated. The calculations suggest that both mechanisms are feasible in the enzymatic catalysis. The nucleophilic attack of the acceptor substrate to the anomeric carbon of OCII is the rate-determining step with an overall reaction barrier (ΔE‡ = 19.5 kcal mol−1) in agreement with an experimental rate constant (kcat = 5.1 s−1). A calculated α-secondary kinetic isotope effect (α-KIE) of 1.27 (GTBWT) and 1.26 (GTBE303C) predicts dissociative character of the transition state in agreement with experimentally measured α-KIE of other retaining glycosyltransferases. Remarkably, stable CGEI in GTBE303C compared with its counterpart in GTBWT may explain why the CGEI has been detected by mass spectrometry only in GTBE303C ( Soya N, Fang Y, Palcic MM, Klassen JS. 2011. Trapping and characterization of covalent intermediates of mutant retaining glycosyltransferases. Glycobiology, 21: 547–552).