Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) encodes a cell surface Fc receptor, glycoprotein gE. VZV gE has previously been shown to display several features common to nonviral cell surface receptors. Most recently, VZV gE was reported to be tyrosine phosphorylated on a dimeric form (J. K. Olson, G. A. Bishop, and C. Grose, J. Virol. 71:110-119, 1997). Thereafter, attention focused on the ability of VZV gE to undergo receptor-mediated endocytosis. The current transient transfection studies demonstrated by confocal microscopy and internalization assays that VZV gE was endocytosed when expressed in HeLa cells. Endocytosis of gE was shown to be dependent on clathrin-coated vesicle formation within the cells. Subsequent colocalization studies showed that endocytosis of VZV gE closely mimicked endocytosis of the transferrin receptor. The gE cytoplasmic tail and more specifically tyrosine residue 582 were determined by mutagenesis studies to be important for efficient internalization of the protein; this tyrosine residue is part of a conserved YXXL motif. The amount of gE internalized at any given time reached a steady state of 32%. In addition, like the transferrin receptor, internalized gE recycled to the cell surface. The finding of gE endocytosis provided insight into earlier documentation of gE serine/threonine and tyrosine phosphorylation, since these phosphorylation events may serve as sorting signals for internalized receptors. Taken together with the previous discovery that both human and simian immunodeficiency virus envelope proteins can undergo endocytosis, the gE findings suggest that endocytosis of envelope components may be a posttranslational regulatory mechanism among divergent families of enveloped viruses.