Microsomal cytochrome P450 is inserted into the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by its N-terminal signal/anchor sequence which also functions as an ER retention signal. To analyze further potential retention signals of cytochrome P450, topological domains of cytochrome P450 2C1 or 2C2, epidermal growth factor receptor, a plasma membrane protein, and bacterial alkaline phosphatase, a secreted protein were exchanged. The N- terminal signal/anchor of cytochrome P450 2C1 functioned as an ER retention signal when placed at the N terminus of several reporter proteins but not when fused at the C terminus of the extracellular domain of epidermal growth factor receptor, with or without a heterologous cytoplasmic domain. Chimeric proteins in which the cytoplasmic domain of cytochrome P450 2C2 was substituted for that of epidermal growth factor receptor were retained in the ER indicating that an independent retention signal is present in the cytoplasmic part of cytochrome P450 2C2. These chimeras were enzymatically active which argues against misfolding as the primary cause of retention. The ER retention signal of the cytoplasmic domain could not be localized to a single amine acid segment by deletion analysis. These results show that cytochrome P450 2C2 contains redundant, complex ER retention signals in its cytoplasmic and N-terminal hydrophobic domains and that the function of the N-terminal signal is context-dependent.