IL-3 has numerous functions in hematopoiesis yet its receptor has not been fully characterized. We have developed two mAb, 4G8 and 2F2, that markedly inhibited IL-3-dependent proliferation whereas only marginally affecting IL-2 or IL-4-induced proliferation. On Western blots, both antibodies identified the same protein, which varied in size from 115 to 145 kDa in six cell lines tested. The 4G8/2F2 Ag was detected at moderate density, on a wide variety of cells including IL-3-dependent cell lines and T lymphocytes. Radioligand binding studies revealed that 4G8, but not 2F2, could inhibit the binding of 125I-IL-3 to the high affinity IL-3R. These data suggest that the mAb 4G8 and 2F2 recognize different epitopes on the same Ag, and suggest furthermore that the inhibition of IL-3-dependent proliferation mediated by 2F2, in particular, does not occur via inhibition of ligand binding. Neither antibody showed an enhanced level of fluorescent staining of Cos 7 cells transfected with the low affinity IL-3R cDNA. In addition, 4G8 did not inhibit IL-3 binding to L cells transfected with the cloned IL-3R or IL-4R despite the fact that 4G8 was expressed on these cells. These data suggest that the 4G8/2F2 Ag is a unique cell surface protein that can interact with the endogenous functional IL-3R.