The biosynthesis of influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) and its translocation across microsomal membranes were studied in a mammalian cell-free system. All forms of HA could be cotranslationally translocated with high efficiency. However, only truncated forms of HA were translocated after protein synthesis has been terminated. The efficiency of this posttranslational translocation was dependent on the extent of the truncation. Posttranslational translocation was ribosome dependent and occurred only in the presence of a functional N-terminal signal sequence. The molecular mechanism of protein targeting and translocation across the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum is discussed.