RNA extracted from a free polysome fraction from rat liver was used to direct translation in nuclease-treated rabbit reticulocyte lysates, and the [35S]methionine-labelled, in vitro-synthesized, cytochrome b5 reductase was isolated with specific antibodies. Analysis by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, non-equilibrium pH gradient electrophoresis and one-dimensional peptide mapping failed to reveal any difference between the in vitro-synthesized reductase and the enzyme endogenous to rat liver microsomes. To study the integration of the in vitro-synthesized reductase into membranes, carboxypeptidase Y was used as a proteolytic probe. The reductase endogenous to rat liver microsomes was resistant to attack by carboxypeptidase Y, but was degraded to a smaller form when the microsomes were solubilized by detergent. Likewise, the enzyme synthesized in vitro was attacked by carboxypeptidase Y, but became largely resistant after post-translational incubation with dog pancreatic microsomes, indicating that an integration into membranes similar to the physiological one had occurred. It is concluded that cytochrome b5 reductase is probably not synthesized as a precursor and inserts post-translationally into the membrane. The results are discussed in relation to the particular subcellular distribution of the reductase and to the possible topology in the lipid bilayer of its C-terminal non-polar membrane-binding segment.