Experiments were performed to study the feasibility of two mechanisms of acetylcholine receptor (ACHR) accumulation in chick myotubes: diffusion and trapping of previously dispersed surface receptors and localized insertion of new receptors at accumulation sites. Fluorescence photobleaching recovery (FPR) measurements indicated that the majority of diffusely distributed ACHRs in chick myotube membranes were mobile whereas nearly all receptors within high density clusters were effectively immobile. Unlike previous reports, two rates of ACHR movement characterized the mobile population. Moreover, we found that the estimated diffusion coefficient depended critically on the objective (spot size) used to assay recovery from bleaching. Implications of this finding for mechanisms of receptor immobilization are discussed. Extracts of chick brain, known to increase the number of surface receptors, did not alter receptor mobility. Extracts of Torpedo electric organ that increase the number of receptor aggregates, decreased the mobile fraction of ACHRs. Simulations of the diffusion and trapping mechanism indicated that captured receptors should congregate around the periphery of a receptor patch during the first hour after they were inserted into the membrane. However, newly inserted ACHRs were found to be located centrally within receptor patches under neurites, and this was not consistent with an exclusive diffusion-trapping mechanism. We also studied the mobility of ACHRs near points of contact made by cholinergic growth cones. The rate of receptor movement was increased in the vicinity of growth cones, but the magnitude of this effect was small.