The heterodimeric interferon (IFN)-gamma receptor (IFN-gammaR) is formed of two chains. Here we show that the binding chain (IFN-gammaR1) was highly expressed on the membranes of T, B, and myeloid cells. Conversely, the transducing chain (IFN-gammaR2) was highly expressed on the surfaces of myeloid cells, moderately expressed on B cells, and poorly expressed on the surfaces of T cells. Differential cell membrane expression of IFN-gammaR2 determined the number of receptor complexes that transduced the IFN-gamma signal and resulted in a different response to IFN-gamma. After IFN-gamma stimulation, high IFN-gammaR2 membrane expression induced rapid activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription-1 (STAT-1) and high levels of interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1), which then triggered the apoptotic program. By contrast, low cell membrane expression resulted in slow activation of STAT-1, lower levels of IRF-1, and induction of proliferation. Because the forced expression of IFN-gammaR2 on T cells switched their response to IFN-gamma from proliferative to apoptotic, we concluded that the surface expression of IFN-gammaR2 determines whether a cell stimulated by IFN-gamma undergoes proliferation or apoptosis.