A cDNA encoding a 63-kDa human IFN-alpha R (hIFN-alpha R) has recently been cloned. Mouse cells transfected with this cDNA failed to show any signal transmission for IFN-beta, suggesting the involvement of additional chains in the receptor complex. We have expressed in Escherichia coli and COS 7 cells a soluble recombinant protein (sIFN-alpha R) comprising the extracellular domain of the hIFN-alpha R fused at the carboxyl terminus to a sequence of five histidine residues. The sIFN-alpha R was affinity purified and used to generate mAb. One mAb, 64G12, which recognized the cellular receptor as well as the recombinant proteins was found to neutralize the biologic activity of IFN-alpha, -beta, and -omega and natural type I IFN, but not IFN-gamma. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a neutralizing mAb against the human IFN-alpha R. Interestingly, we found that the affinity of this antibody for the cellular receptor depended on the cell line used. These results provide strong evidence that the cloned hIFN-alpha R chain is required for binding and signal transmission of all subspecies of type I IFN and suggest a structural heterogeneity of the receptor at the cell surface.