Activation/proliferation of mouse and human T and B cells is associated with expression and subsequent release of interleukin 2 receptors (IL 2R) into the milieu. The soluble form of IL 2R, at least in part, retains its ability to bind to IL 2 and to anti-receptor antibodies, but its exact structure remains unknown. Because systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with T and B cell activation, we have used monoclonal anti-IL 2R antibodies in an ELISA to measure levels of IL 2R in sera of various lupus strains. High levels of the released receptor were found at an active clinical stage in sera of four autoimmune strains of mice homozygous for the lpr (lymphoproliferation) gene that causes T cell expansion, massive lymphoid organ enlargement, and promotes the autoimmune process. High levels were also found in lupus mice characterized primarily by B cell proliferation (BXSB males) and in (NZB X W)F1 mice characterized by T and B cell activation. Similarly high IL 2R serum levels could be induced experimentally in normal mice injected with immunostimulants such as bacterial lipopolysaccharide or Freund's complete adjuvant. The results indicate that IL 2R serum levels may provide a good marker of ongoing lymphoid cell activation/proliferation, and thus might be useful in the follow-up of patients with systemic autoimmune or other lymphoproliferative disorders. The biologic roles, if any, of the soluble form of IL 2R and its effects in normal and abnormal conditions remain to be determined.