We recently reported that the rat asialoglycoprotein receptor binds oligosaccharides terminating with sialic acid (Sia) α2,6GalNAc. Despite a high percentage of identical amino acids in their sequences, orthologues of the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGP-R) in different mammals differ in their specificity for terminal Siaα2,6GalNAc. The recombinant subunit 1 of the ASGP-R from the rat (RHL-1 or rat hepatic lectin) and the mouse (MHL-1 or mouse hepatic lectin), which differ at only 12 positions in the amino acid sequence of their carbohydrate recognition domains, binds Siaα2,6GalNAcβ1, 4GlcNAcβ1,2Man-bovine serum albumin and GalNAcβ1,4GlcNAcβ1,2Man- bovine serum albumin in ratios of 16:1.0 and 1.0:1.0, respectively. Mutagenesis was used to show that amino acids both in the immediate vicinity of the proposed binding site for terminal GalNAc and on the α2 helix that is distant from the binding site contribute to the specificity for terminal Siaα2,6GalNAc. Thus, multiple amino acid sequence alterations in two key locations contribute to the difference in specificity observed for the rat and mouse ASGP-Rs. We hypothesize that the altered specificity of ASPG-R orthologues in such evolutionarily closely related species reflects rapidly changing requirements for recognition of endogenous or exogenous oligosaccharides in vivo.