The H2a alternatively spliced variant of the human asialoglycoprotein receptor H2 subunit differs from the H2b variant by an extra pentapeptide, EGHRG, present in the ectodomain next to the membrane-span. This difference causes retention and degradation in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of H2a when expressed without the HI subunit in 3T3 cells (1). In contrast, a significant portion of singly expressed H2b is Golgi-processed and reaches the cell surface. Using a new specific anti-H2a antibody, we found that in HepG2 cells, H2a is rapidly cleaved to a 35-kDa fragment, comprising the entire ectodomain, most of which is secreted into the medium. The cleavage site for the secreted fragment was located at the lumenal end of the membrane span. No membrane-bound H2a exits the ER, indicating that the pentapeptide is a signal for ER retention and degradation of the membrane form but does not hinder secretion of the cleaved soluble form. H2a does not form a membrane receptor complex with HI as H2b does. H2a is therefore not a subunit of the receptor but a precursor for a secreted form of the protein; signal peptidase is probably responsible for the cleavage to the soluble fragment (2). Therefore, the juxtamembrane sequence regulates the function of the transmembrane domain of a type II membrane protein as either a signal-anchor sequence (H2b) or as a cleaved signal sequence, which generates a secreted product (H2a).