The IL-2-R is composed of at least two proteins, that is, a 55-kD protein (p55, the L chain, or Tac) and a 75-kD protein (p75, the H chain, or converter). The high affinity binding of IL-2 results in the formation of the ternary complex consisting of IL-2, and the L and H chains. To distinguish the affinity conversion model and the binary complex model we have carried out kinetic studies on the IL-2 binding to the high affinity IL-2-R on T lymphocytes expressing various numbers of L chains and a relatively constant number of H chains. We found that expression of a larger number of L chains accelerated the association of IL-2 to the high affinity receptor. The results are not compatible with the binary complex model that assumes a fixed number of high affinity sites determined by the numbers of a limiting chain. Instead, the results are consistent with the prediction of the affinity conversion model that assumes association of IL-2 to the L chain as the first step of the ternary complex formation and they indicate that the possible role of excess L chains is to accelerate the formation of the ternary complex. The reaction rate constants calculated from the affinity conversion model were reasonably constant.

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