Transmembrane proteins destined to endosomes are selectively accumulated in clathrin-coated pits at the plasma membrane and rapidly internalized in clathrin-coated vesicles. The recognition of specific sequence motifs in transmembrane cargo by coated-pit proteins confers specificity on the endocytic process. Interaction of membrane cargo with the clathrin adaptor protein complex AP-2 is the major mechanism of cargo sorting into coated pits in mammalian cells. Recent studies have revealed a variety of alternative mechanisms of cargo recruitment involving additional adaptor proteins. These alternative mechanisms appear to be particularly important during clathrin-mediated endocytosis of signaling receptors.