A low affinity receptor for IgG immune complexes, Fc gamma RIII(CD16), is expressed on human NK cells as an integral membrane glycoprotein anchored through a transmembrane peptide; on polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) the receptor is anchored through a phosphatidylinositol (PI) linkage. The protein on NK cells has a molecular mass 6-10 kD larger than that on PMN, and, unlike the latter, is resistant to PI-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC). Fc gamma RIII(CD16) transcripts isolated from PMN and NK cells of single donors revealed multiple single nucleotide differences, one of which converts an in frame UGA termination codon to a CGA codon. The resulting open reading frame encodes a longer cytoplasmic domain for Fc gamma RIII(CD16) in NK cells, contributing to its transmembrane anchor. Two nearly identical, linked genes that encode these transcripts have been cloned for Fc gamma RIII(CD16), one of which (III-1) is allelic for NA-1 and NA-2. The allelic sites have been mapped to two single nucleotides in the extracellular domain. These genes are transcribed in a cell type-specific fashion to generate the alternatively anchored forms of this receptor.