The IL-2R is composed of three subunits, alpha, beta, and gamma, each of which individually contributes to binding IL-2 in the high affinity IL-2R. The molecular mechanism by which the high affinity IL-2R assembles has not been established. Previous studies have shown that human IL-2R subunits form high affinity hybrid IL-2R when mixed with appropriate mouse IL-2R subunits, but the efficiency of this process is not known. In this study, we produced stable cell lines that expressed hybrid human/mouse IL-2R, comprised of heterologous alpha- and beta-chains, to determine the contribution of individual receptor subunits in stabilizing the high affinity IL-2R. Quantitative ligand binding studies and FACS analysis were performed for EL4J cells that expressed hybrid mouse/human IL-2R, and these data were compared with those of cells that expressed homologous mouse IL-2R subunits. EL4J cells that expressed human beta/mouse alpha formed high affinity IL-2R, comparable with cells that express homologous mouse alpha and beta subunits. In contrast, EL4J cells that expressed homologous mouse IL-2R contained an approximately 10-fold higher level of high affinity IL-2R than did EL4J cells that expressed heterologous human alpha/mouse beta IL-2R. This difference was not accounted for by lower levels of human alpha-chains in these cell lines or lower expression of the mouse IL-2R beta or gamma subunits. These results suggest that amino acid sequences within the alpha subunit, distinct from the IL-2 binding site, are important in the assembly and stabilization of the high affinity IL-2R.