The human asialoglycoprotein receptor is a 46-kDa membrane glycoprotein. It is initially synthesized as a 40-kDa precursor species possessing two N-linked high-mannose oligosaccharides which is subsequently converted to the 46-kDa mature product upon modification of its oligosaccharides of the complex form [Schwartz, A. L. & Rup, D. (1983) J. Biol. Chem. 258, 11 249-11 255]. To investigate further the biosynthesis of the human asialoglycoprotein receptor, we have utilized a cell-free wheat germ translation system supplemented with dog pancreatic microsomal membranes and programmed with HepG2 and human liver RNA. The primary translation product of the human receptor is a single 34-kDa species and this species is expressed throughout human fetal and adult development. The primary translation product possesses no cleavable signal peptide and is cotranslationally glycosylated to form the 40-kDa precursor species. In addition, the human asialoglycoprotein receptor is co-translationally inserted into microsomal membranes such that a 4-kDa cytoplasmic tail is susceptible to trypsin digestion.