In this report we describe, on the basis of direct IL-1 binding assays and IL-1 internalization studies, the existence of two classes of IL-1-R on a variety of T cell types. Cells of the EL4-6.1 thymoma express large numbers (approximately 20,000 per cell) of IL-1-R that have a Kd of approximately 300 pM for IL-1. Even though these receptors make up 98-99% of the total IL-1-R per cell, they appear to be nonfunctional, based on their inability to endocytose IL-1. A minor class of IL-1-R (200-400/cell) has an approximately 100-fold higher affinity for IL-1 (Kd, approximately 5 pM) and can rapidly internalize the ligand upon binding. All of the biological activity of IL-1 can be shown to occur via binding to high-affinity IL-1-R since the IL-1 concentration giving half-maximum biological activity in EL4-6.1 cells corresponds precisely to the Kd of this class of receptor. Other cell types, including normal T cells, also express both high- and low-affinity IL-1-R, but the absolute number of receptors per cell is considerably less.

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