Fc alpha receptors (Fc alpha R) were isolated from a human monocytic cell line and used to raise four mAb with receptor specificity. The antibodies were used to identify the types of white blood cells that express Fc alpha R and the molecular heterogeneity of the receptor molecules. Nonpolymorphic epitopes, outside of the Fc alpha-binding site, were recognized only on blood cells of granulocyte and monocyte/macrophage lineages. The molecules identified, both by the antibodies and by the IgA ligand, were glycoproteins ranging in relative molecular mass from 55 to 75 kDa. However, one antibody detected a subpopulation of Fc alpha R molecules characterized by relatively restricted size heterogeneity. A complex glycosylation pattern was revealed by the resolution of discrete 32- and 36-kDa molecular species after removal of N-linked oligosaccharides and by evidence for O-linked carbohydrate moieties on at least a portion of the Fc alpha R molecules. In biosynthetic studies, all four anti-Fc alpha R antibodies and the IgA ligand bound a single 32-kDa core protein present in tunicamycin-treated cells, and the exceptional antibody again recognized molecules with relatively restricted glycosylation in the nontreated cells. These antibodies and native IgA ligands thus provide complementary reagents for definition of the complex structure and function of Fc alpha R in systemic IgA antibody responses.