A third subunit, the gamma chain, of the human interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) was identified, and a complementary DNA clone encoding this member of the cytokine receptor family was isolated. The gamma chain is necessary for the formation of the high- and intermediate-affinity receptors, which consists of alpha beta gamma heterotrimers and beta gamma heterodimers, respectively. The IL-2R on murine fibroblastoid cells can be internalized after binding IL-2 only if the gamma chain is present; alpha and beta are insufficient for internalization. Thus, the gamma chain is an indispensable component of the functional IL-2R.