To isolate a stable tumor cell line capable of producing human interleukin 2 (IL-2; formerly referred to as T cell growth factor), 16 human T and B leukemia cell lines were screened for constitutive and mitogen-stimulated IL-2 production. We found that the T cell leukemia line designated Jurkat-FHCRC produced > 200 U/ml of IL-2 activity after a 24-h stimulation with T cell mitogens. Peak mitogen-induced IL-2 activity was found in supernates harvested from 24-h Jurkat-FHCRC cell cultures stimulated with either 1% phytohemagglutinin or 20 microgram/ml concanavalin A. Addition of the fatty acid derivative phorbol myristate acetate to mitogen-stimulated cultures increased Jurkat-FHCRC IL-2 production to concentrations > 400 U/ml. IL-2 activity observed in such cases represented between 100--300 times that produced in conventional cultures of mitogen- or alloantigen-stimulated normal human peripheral blood or splenic lymphocytes. Jurkat-FHCRC-derived conditioned medium demonstrated equal capacity to promote the sustained in vitro proliferation of either murine or human activated T cell lines confirming the ability of Jurkat-FHCRC cells to produce human IL-2. These studies identify a new source of human IL-2 and establish a valuable reagent for the isolation and further molecular characterization of this immunoregulatory molecule.