We describe a universal ligand-binding receptor for human interferons alpha and interferon beta (type I IFNs). A soluble 40 kDa IFN-alpha/beta receptor (p40) that blocks the activity of type I IFNs was purified from urine and sequenced. Antibodies raised against p40 completely block the activity of several type I IFNs and immuno-precipitate both a cellular 102 kDa IFN-alpha/beta receptor and its cross-linked complexes with IFN-alpha 2. The receptor is a disulfide-linked dimer, consisting of 51 kDa subunits. We isolated and expressed a 1.5 kb cDNA, coding for the IFN-alpha/beta receptor. Its 331 amino acid sequence includes a leader and a transmembrane region, while its ectodomain corresponds to p40. IFN-alpha/beta receptor is physically associated with the cytoplasmic Tyr kinase JAK1, hence, in addition to ligand binding, it is directly involved in signal transduction.