To evaluate the possible role for receptor-based tyrosine phosphorylation in growth signaling induced by interleukin-2 (IL-2), a series of substitution tyrosine mutants of the IL-2 receptor beta and gamma c chains was prepared and analyzed. Concurrent mutation of all six of the cytoplasmic tyrosines present in the beta chain markedly inhibited IL-2-induced growth signaling in both pro-B and T cell lines. Growth signaling in a pro-B cell line was substantially reconstituted when either of the two distal tyrosines (Tyr-392, Tyr-510) was selectively restored in the tyrosine-negative beta mutant, whereas reconstitution of the proximal tyrosines (Tyr-338, Tyr-355, Tyr-358, Tyr-361) did not restore this signaling function. Furthermore, at least one of the two cytoplasmic tyrosines that is required for beta chain function was found to serve as a phosphate acceptor site upon induction with IL-2. Studies employing a chimeric receptor system revealed that tyrosine residues of the beta chain likewise were important for growth signaling in T cells. In contrast, although the gamma c subunits is a target for tyrosine phosphorylation in vivo, concurrent substitution of all four cytoplasmic tyrosines of this chain produced no significant effect on growth signaling by chimeric IL-2 receptors. However, deletion of either the Box 1, Box 2, or intervening (V-Box) regions of gamma c abrogated receptor function. Therefore, tyrosine residues of beta but not of gamma c appear to play a pivotal role in regulating growth signal transduction through the IL-2 receptor, either by influencing cytoplasmic domain folding or by serving as sites for phosphorylation and subsequent association with signaling intermediates. These findings thus highlight a fundamental difference in the structural requirements for IL-2R beta and gamma c in receptor-mediated signal transduction.