Over the past 15 years, numerous reports have been published on the recombinant expression of integral membrane proteins. Some proteins accumulate in the membrane to high levels, whereas other often closely related proteins are barely detected. Understanding the underlying reasons for this variation has proven difficult. Recent studies in this area have provided new insight into the response of host cells to membrane protein expression and into the mechanism of membrane insertion. The successful overproduction of some membrane proteins was shown to be linked to the avoidance of stress responses in the host cell. Furthermore, the cell response to membrane protein production has been quantified and several genes that are either upregulated or downregulated when yields of a membrane-inserted protein are poor were identified. Progress has also been made in understanding how the translocon, which is the site of protein translocation and membrane insertion, decides whether a protein segment is integrated into the membrane or not. Building upon such experiments will lead to targeted approaches for recombinant membrane protein expression.