We have expressed the extracellular regions of the low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and the very-low-density-lipoprotein (VLDL) receptor, along with the full-length forms of the receptors, in insect cells in a baculovirus system. The extracellular region of the LDL receptor has been secreted successfully into the culture medium, and it retained the capacities of binding 125I-labelled LDL and beta-VLDL. In contrast, the extracellular region of the VLDL receptor remained intracellular and it did not bind 125I-beta-VLDL. This difference in expression behaviour between the homologous regions of the two receptors suggests that the two receptor systems are different in receptor-protein maturation or protein targeting. Next we developed the co-expression system with 39-kDa receptor-associated protein (RAP). This co-expression facilitated the secretion of the extracellular region of the VLDL receptor into the culture medium and the secreted receptor bound 125I-beta-VLDL. The VLDL receptor remaining intracellular that was co-expressed with RAP also showed binding capacity to 125I-beta-VLDL, implying that the existence of RAP prevented receptor-protein aggregation or improved protein-folding status of the truncated VLDL receptor. On the other hand, expression of the extracellular region of the LDL receptor was not facilitated by RAP co-expression. Thus RAP plays an essential role in maintenance of the active conformation and secretion of the extracellular region of the VLDL receptor.