In these studies, we characterize an Fc receptor (FcR) for IgA that is present on human granulocytes, monocyte/macrophages, and their corresponding cell lines. Receptor expression appears to be constitutive but can be selectively upregulated on monocyte cell lines by stimulation with a phorbol ester and polymeric IgA. Both the induction requirements and ligand specificity of the IgA receptor differ from the IgG receptors, Fc gamma R I, II, and III, that are also expressed on monocytes and granulocytes. IgA binding to the cell surface receptor is mediated via the Fc alpha region. The Fc alpha R is a heterogenously charged, approximately 60-kD molecule with an isoelectric point of 4.5-5.6 that binds monomeric or polymeric IgA1 and IgA2 molecules. This transmembrane glycoprotein appears to be composed of 32- and 36-kD protein cores with multiple N-linked carbohydrate moieties. We conclude that this Fc alpha R represents a novel member of the FcR family that may have a distinctive role in host defense.