In mammalian cells two mannose 6-phosphate receptors (MPRs) are involved in lysosomal enzyme transport. To understand the precise function of the cation-dependent mannose 6-phosphate receptor (CD-MPR), one allele of the corresponding gene has been disrupted in mouse embryonic stem cells and homozygous mice lacking this receptor have been generated. The homozygous mice appear normal, suggesting that other targeting mechanisms can partially compensate for the loss of the CD-MPR in vivo. However, homozygous receptor-deficient cells and animals clearly exhibit defects in targeting of multiple lysosomal enzymes when compared with wild-types. Increased levels of phosphorylated lysosomal enzymes were present in body fluids of homozygous animals. In thymocytes from homozygous mice or in primary cultures of fibroblasts from homozygous embryos, there is a marked increase in the amount of phosphorylated lysosomal enzymes that are secreted into the extracellular medium. The cultured fibroblasts have decreased intracellular levels of multiple lysosomal enzymes and accumulate macromolecules within their endosomal/lysosomal system. Taken together, these results clearly indicate that the CD-MPR is required for efficient intracellular targeting of multiple lysosomal enzymes.