A method is described in which high-speed centrifugation of membranes through an oil phase is used to separate membrane-bound and detergent-solubilized polypeptide receptor-iodinated ligand complexes from unbound ligands. Three centrifuges, the Brinkmann Eppendorf (5412), the Beckman Microfuge B and the Beckman Airfuge were evaluated for this capability. Under the conditions described, the Beckman Airfuge surpassed the others in recovering previously /sup 125/I- and /sup 32/P-labelled cell membranes. The Airfuge method was compared with the more classically employed membrane filtration method to measure specific (/sup 125/I)insulin and (/sup 125/I)thrombin binding to human placental membranes and an enriched plasma membrane fraction from mouse embryo fibroblasts, respectively, and found to be 4 to 5 times more sensitive. For example, specific binding of ligand to its receptor was demonstrated with 5 ..mu..g of protein. With slight modifications, the polyethyleneglycol 6000 method of precipitating /sup 125/I-labelled ligand-soluble receptor complexes can be adapted to the Airfuge sedimentation through oil procedure.