Insertion of newly synthesized P-450(1), the major phenobarbital-inducible form of rabbit liver microsomal cytochrome P-450, into microsomal membranes was studied in a wheat germ cell-free translation system programed with total RNA from the liver of a phenobarbital-treated rabbit. P-450(1) synthesized in vitro had the same molecular weight as the mature molecule and was co-translationally inserted into dog pancreas rough microsomal membranes. In the presence of salt-washed microsomes, instead of unwashed ones, the insertion was greatly diminished. It could, however, be restored by supplementation of the system with purified signal recognition particle (SRP), a known component of the membrane translocation machinery for secretory proteins. In the absence of microsomes, SRP inhibited the translation of mRNA encoding P-450(1) and this translation arrest was released by the addition of salt-washed microsomes. On the other hand, SRP did not affect the translation of mRNAs encoding yeast porin and reticulocyte globin, which are mitochondrial and cytosolic proteins, respectively. We conclude that co-translational insertion of P-450(1) into microsomal membranes requires SRP and postulate that P-450(1) possesses an uncleavable signal sequence that can be recognized by SRP.