Novel peptide motives targeting endocytosing receptors were isolated from phage display libraries of random peptides by recovering internalized phage from mammalian cells. The peptide-presenting phage selected by internalization in HEp-2 and ECV304 human cells were taken up 1000- to 100,000-fold more efficiently than their parent libraries, and from 10 to 100 times faster than phage particles displaying integrin-binding peptides. A high degree of selectivity of phage uptake was observed in these cells: phage selected in ECV304 cells were internalized approximately 100-fold more efficiently in ECV304 cells than in HEp-2 cells. Likewise, phage selected in HEp-2 cells were subsequently taken up approximately 40-fold more efficiently by HEp-2 cells than by ECV304 cells. In multiple independent trials using a cyclic peptide library, an identical peptide sequence displayed on phage was internalized by and recovered from ECV304 cells. These findings indicate that the internalization process is highly selective, and is capable of capturing a specific peptide from 2 x 10(7) peptide variants. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed juxtanuclear localization of internalized phage. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using multivalent phage-display libraries to identify new targeting ligands for the intracellular delivery of macromolecules.