Interleukin 2 promotes proliferation of T cells by virtue of its interaction with a high-affinity cell surface receptor. This receptor is a 55,000 mol wt glycoprotein that is also recognized by the murine monoclonal antibody, anti-Tac. Quantitative binding studies with radiolabeled IL-2 and anti-Tac, however, initially indicated far more antibody binding sites per cell than IL-2 binding sites. Extension of the IL-2 binding analysis to concentrations several thousand-fold higher than that necessary for the T cell proliferative response demonstrated the existence of a class (or classes) of low-affinity IL-2 binding sites. Inclusion of the low-affinity IL-2 binding greatly reduced the quantitative discrepancy in the ligand binding assays. That the low-affinity binding, as well as the high-affinity interaction, was associated with the Tac molecule was indicated by the finding that the antibody could substantially or totally block the entire spectrum of IL-2 binding and by the finding that IL-2 could in turn block all radiolabeled anti-Tac binding. The low-affinity sites were found on activated T cells, several human and murine T cell lines and two examples of Tac-positive B cells. The physiological role of the low-affinity IL-2 binding sites and the molecular changes in the Tac protein that give rise to the affinity differences remain open to investigation.