Interleukin-6 (IL-6) signal is transduced through a membrane glycoprotein, gp130, which associates with IL-6 receptor (IL-6-R). A cDNA encoding human gp130 has been cloned, revealing that it consists of 918 amino acids with a single transmembrane domain. The extracellular region comprises six units of a fibronectin type III module, and part of this region of approximately 200 amino acids has features typical of a cytokine receptor family. A cDNA-expressed gp130 showed no binding property to IL-6 or several other cytokines. Although a transfectant with an IL-6-R cDNA expressed mainly low affinity IL-6 binding sites, an increase in high affinity binding sites was observed after cotransfection with a gp130 cDNA. This confirmed that a gp130 is involved in the formation of high affinity IL-6 binding sites. A cloned gp130 could associate with a complex of IL-6 and soluble IL-6-R and transduce the growth signal when expressed in a murine IL-3-dependent cell line.