Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is produced by activated T lymphocytes and plays a regulatory role in immune responses. The nature and location of cells that express the IFN-gamma receptor (R) and respond to this lymphokine are not well documented. The distribution of human IFN-gamma-R (HuIFN-gamma-R) was, therefore, investigated in situ by immunohistochemistry, using affinity-purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of the receptor. In lymphoid organs, IFN-gamma-R expression is restricted to the B cell areas of lymph nodes, adult and fetal spleen, tonsils, appendix, and mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue of the small bowel. Macrophages and other reticular cells in lymphoid tissues and other organs are strongly positive for IFN-gamma-R, whereas its expression was consistently negative in the cortical and medullary thymocytes. Two-color flow cytofluorometric analysis of blood, lymph node, tonsil, spleen and thymus cells confirms that most B lymphocytes are IFN-gamma-R positive, whereas T lymphocytes are negative. However, after in vitro activation, peripheral blood T cells become IFN-gamma-R+. In non-lymphoid organs, IFN-gamma-R is expressed on endothelial cells of the medium- and small-size vessels. In epithelial tissues, high expression of IFN-gamma-R is detected on trophoblastic epithelium, glandular cells of stomach, ileum and colon, lung alveolar cells, salivary duct cells, renal tubular cells, and endometrial mucosa cells. Hepatocytes are weakly positive, while squamous epithelial cells are negative. The distribution of the HuIFN-gamma-R is discussed in view of the known functions of IFN-gamma.