Transport of macromolecules into the cell by receptor-mediated endocytosis follows a complex series of intracellular transfers, passing through distinct environments. The asialoglycoprotein receptor is a prototype of the class of receptors that constitutively enters cells via coated pits and delivers ligand to these intracellular compartments. In addition to being a model of receptor-mediated endocytosis, the presence of the receptor on hepatocytes provides a membrane-bound active site for cell-to-cell interactions, has made possible the selective targeting of chemotherapeutic agents and foreign genes, and has also been implicated as a site mediating hepatitis B virus uptake. Regulated expression of receptor subunits and their intracellular trafficking during biosynthesis and endocytosis has provided insights into the relationship of receptor structure to its overall function. As a marker of hepatocellular differentiation, its study has uncovered a unique response to intracellular guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate and translational regulation of the receptor. In this review, an overview of these diverse findings is provided in an attempt to relate the various aspects of structure and function as they impact on receptor expression.