Wild-type and mutant human transferrin receptors (TR) have been expressed in chicken embryo fibroblasts using a helper-independent retroviral vector. By functional studies of the mutant TRs, we have identified the tetrapeptide sequence, YXRF, in the cytoplasmic tail of the receptor as the internalization signal required for high efficiency endocytosis and shown that transplanted internalization signals from the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) and the cation-independent mannose-6-phosphate receptor (Man-6-PR) are able to promote rapid internalization of the human TR. A six-residue LDLR signal, FDNPVY, is required for activity in TR, whereas a four-residue Man-6-PR signal, YSKV, is sufficient. These data indicate that internalization signals are interchangeable self-determined structural motifs and that signals from type I membrane proteins are active in a type II receptor. Putative internalization signals in the cytoplasmic tails of other receptors and membrane proteins can be identified based on the sequence patterns of the LDLR, Man-6-PR, and TR signals. Two such putative four-residue internalization signals, one from the poly-Ig receptor and one from the asialoglycoprotein receptor, were tested for activity by transplantation into TR and were found to promote high efficiency internalization. These results suggest that an exposed tight turn is the conformational motif for high efficiency endocytosis. © 1992.