The cellular receptor for the alpha/beta interferons contains at least two components that interact with interferon. The ifnar1 component is well characterized and a putative ifnar2 cDNA has recently been identified. We have cloned the gene for ifnar2 and show that it produces four different transcripts encoding three different polypeptides that are generated by exon skipping, alternative splicing and differential use of polyadenylation sites. One polypeptide is likely to be secreted and two are transmembrane proteins with identical extracellular and transmembrane domains but divergent cytoplasmic tails of 67 and 251 amino acids. A mutant cell line U5A, completely defective in IFN-alpha beta binding and response, has been isolated and characterized. Expression in U5A cells of the polypeptide with the long cytoplasmic domain reconstitutes a functional receptor that restores normal interferon binding, activation of the JAK/STAT signal transduction pathway, interferon-inducible gene expression and antiviral response. The IFNAR2 gene maps at 0.5 kb from the CRFB4 gene, establishing that together IFNAR2, CRFB4, IFNAR1 and AF1 form a cluster of class II cytokine receptor genes on human chromosome 21.