The signal transduction mechanism of the interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) remains largely undefined. The cytosolic domain of the IL-2R beta subunit is known to be essential for coupling to intracellular signaling pathways such as protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) and for control of IL-2 dependent cellular proliferation. A panel of cell lines that express IL-2R beta chains that contain sequential truncation mutations within the cytosolic domain were constructed. These cell lines were used to map the interaction of IL-2R with PTK activation, and the linkage of PTK function to activation of the enzyme phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (Pl3K). The data show that the amino terminal segment of the acidic region (residues 314-350) within IL-2R beta is a critical site for PTK activation, and that activation of Pl3K is linked to IL-2 dependent tyrosine phosphorylation.