We have studied the molecular mechanisms of the binding and uptake of secretory and serum immunoglobulin A (IgA) of both subclasses (1 and 2) and molecular forms (monomer and polymer) by the particulate fraction of human liver homogenate and by a human hepatoma cell line (HepG2). Inhibition by asialoorosomucoid and the requirement for the presence of calcium indicated that the binding of secretory IgA and polymeric IgA1 was mediated by the asialoglycoprotein receptor. Secretory component, which functions as a receptor for polymeric IgA in several animal species, was detected in the epithelial cells of bile ducts, but not in hepatocytes. Secretory IgA and all molecular forms and subclasses of serum IgA were bound by HepG2 cells, which do not express secretory component. The requirement for the presence of calcium, the presence of a terminal galactose residue in IgA, and the molecular weight of the major plasma membrane protein responsible for binding (41,700 daltons) indicated the involvement of asialoglycoprotein receptor. Immunoglobulin A proteins bound by HepG2 cells were endocytosed and catabolized. © 1988.